Document Type

Senior Honorable Mention

Award Date

Spring 2010

Course Name

Idea of the Individual


Dr. Adam Kotlarczyk


Both The Awakening by Kate Chopin and “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman present female main characters pursuing individual autonomy. At first, it would appear that both of these characters gain their freedom in the course of their respective stories. In The Awakening, Edna is able to escape from her husband into a new house, and pursue romantic interests with other men, and at the end of “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” the protagonist exclaims, “I’ve got out at last!” (Gilman 20). However, there are several elements in each piece which hint that liberation is not truly achievable. In actuality, societal norms and constraints severely restricted the possibility of individual autonomy for the main characters in these works, as evidenced in the cage symbolism used by the authors, the representation of male-female relationships as owner-property relationships, and the dismal endings of both pieces.