However, they also challenged these notions in order to survive and overcome the hardships in their lives. In Sweat, Delia worked as a washman in order to provide for her family. In the early 1 sass, most women in this time period stayed home. However, Delia was the sole financial provider of her household. Her husband, Sykes, didn’t work at all and also challenged social norms of the time by freely spending the money that his wife earned.
Since Delia had married someone who threw out social customs and rules in order to live an easy life, she had no choice but to also go against these artificial social constructs in order to support herself. The dirt that was scrubbed out of the laundry and the money that she earned knew no gender ND she too ignored what stood in her way of survival. Since Deli’s job took much of her time and energy, she often gave herself a head start by soaking the soiled clothes that she had picked up the day before when she returned from church.
Although it was against the Sabbath to work on a Sunday, Delia again ignored social norms and customs of the time in order to survive the workweek. Sykes would say that she was “nothing but a hypocrite. One of them amen-corner Christians- sing whoop, and shout, then come home and wash white folks’ clothes on the Sabbath” (Hurst 699)1. This is ironic for Sykes to say while he breaks the law of Christianity for his own pleasure, by having an affair with another woman. The narrator in The Yellow Wallpaper is also controlled by similar social norms and restrictions.
As a woman who was perceived to be sick, her opinions and feelings were ignored and she was forced to follow the medical advice of her husband, a practicing physician. Modern medical practice placed much significance on the feelings and needs of the patient. However, during the time period that the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper lived in, the patient was seen as an inferior entity that was not as knowledgeable as the medical team that was treating them. The husband being a doctor was symbolic of authority that men often had over women.
His position as a physician elevated him to a much higher level than his default position as a husband. Without actually paying attention to what he was prescribing and saying those around him, including his wife, blindly followed. This significance of positions in society greatly influences the woman as she is less keen to challenge anything her husband says, regardless of how miserable she feels. Also challenging the common notion of her time that a Oman, especially one who was suffering from a nervous depression, should not think too much.
She describes in her writings her feelings when her husband approaches her room, “There comes John, and I must put this away, – he hates to have me write a word” (Gillian 747)2. While her husband didn’t want her to engage in high cognitive thinking, the woman secretly kept a journal and wrote her feelings and detailed descriptions of her thoughts. Her writings in her journal are symbolic of the freedom that she yearns to have. Unlike her life in which she is not allowed to socialize, go out or even choose what room she stays in.
Instead of being allowed to let her creativity flow in her writing, she turned to the wallpaper as a way out of her mundane and stifling lifestyle. Delia Jones and the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper are two characters who worked with and against the social constructs of their time, as well as the figures of authority in their lives in order to overcome their hardships. While Delia worked hard to support herself, the woman in The Yellow Wallpaper attempted to stay sane and healthy. Their struggles, successes, and failures were all influenced by society and the people who had power in their lives, especially their own selves.