Get help from the best in academic writing.

Essay on Millay’s poem, I, being born a woman and distressed and Yellow Wallpaper

Millay’s poem, I, being born a woman and distressed and Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper

Two Works Cited In the early nineteenth century, the issue of whether women should be granted certain privileges, such as voting, arose in America. Two female writers during this time are Edna St. Vincent Millay and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Both women were living in a period of history where women’s writings created an impact on literature. Most women were supposed to stay at home and take care of the children and many women were not highly educated; therefore, there were few women writers. Therefore, these writers caught people’s attention and made them think about women’s issues. Millay’s poem, “I, being born a woman and distressed” and Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” share more than their time in history. Both pieces of literature have the common theme of closeness and distance. Women during this time were pushed out by society. They could not have a part in the rest of societal roles and became distant. The women wanted to be close with the rest of society, in order to feel equal, and spoke out for their needs.

The poem, “I, being born a woman and distressed” was written in 1923 by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This was only three years after the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women’s voting rights, was adopted. Millay was best known for her lyrical poetry. In this poem she speaks of her feelings toward her lover and how they make her feel. She characterizes herself for her audience as “. . .being born a woman and distressed By all the needs and notions of my kind. . .” By using the words “woman” and “my kind” the reader gets the feeling as if she needed to express her gender. This time in history may have influenced Millay to explain this. Today men and women are more equal, whereas in the 1920s they were discriminated against.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, another twentieth century American writer, lived during this period of radical reform for women. She was a very independent woman of their time who supported herself until she married at the age of twenty-four. After she had her first child, she became clinically depressed and this experience inspired “The Yellow Wallpaper” ,written in 1913. This story describes a woman who is forced to remain in bed without thinking or writing.

Malpractice and Malediction in The Marquise of O. and The Yellow Wallpaper

Malpractice and Malediction in The Marquise of O. and The Yellow Wallpaper

In Heinrich Von Kleist’s The Marquise of O. and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, the female protagonist is terribly mislabeled. The inaccuracies in treatment, administered by seemingly authoritative and knowledgeable characters — family members and a medically certified spouse, respectively — result in tragic deterioration of the state of mind of both the Marquise and The Yellow Wallpaper’s narrator. The delineation of each character’s weakness is comprised of blatant references to an applied infantile image and approaching unstable mentality. In The Marquise of O, the Marquise is thrust unwillingly into the external world; in The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is locked away unwillingly in an interior world. Though both are persecuted because of their gender, in The Marquise of O, the Marquise is troubled by the symbolic rebirth of her womanhood; while in The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator is troubled by the symbolic death of her womanhood.

Kleist begins his delineation of the Marquise with terms such as “widowed,”, “a lady,” and “the mother of several well-brought-up children” (Kleist 68). In this introduction the reader learns that the Marquise has experienced both marriage and childbirth. In respect to her deceased husband, the Marquise avoids remarriage and returns to her family’s home with her parents, brother and children. The Marquise transforms her role as lover and wife to daughter and mother, therefore stifling an aspect of her womanhood. It is not until she is unknowingly sexually assaulted and made pregnant that her femininity is reborn.

The narrator of Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, on the other hand, se…

… middle of paper …

…mother realize the identity of her daughter’s rapist before the Marquise, establishing irony and advancing engagement between reader and text. It is also clear to the reader that by the conclusion of The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator has become maniacal.

Though confined to similar situations, Kleist’s Marquise and Gilman’s narrator are delineated in very different manners. While the Marquise displays boldness and determination in locating her assailant, the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper allows the intriguing wallpaper to take control of her senses. Both stories exhibit the consequence of a mythical diagnosis administered to an initially sane and healthy person.


Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. Ed. Dale H. Bauer. New York: Bedford, 1998.

Kleist, Heinrich Von. The Marquise of O-. London: Penguin Books, 1978.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.