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Responses to the Papers of Barbara Balliet and Michael Joseph

Judith K. Brodsky


These two papers are explosions that clear the mind of preconceptions and stereotypes. Balliet and Joseph tear away the surface of the sign of the book, the sign of historic truth, and reveal the underlying complexities. Balliet shows us an extraordinary paradox. We have been convinced of the universality of the stereotype of the nineteenth-century American middle-class white woman as confined to the domestic sphere, prevented from entering the fast-growing world of the spread of information, an idle player on the cultural stage. We believe that the world of the Yellow Wallpaper is all pervasive. In the Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Gilman describes the virtual imprisonment of a woman to her bedroom to rest and get over her urges to go beyond Victorian standards of acceptable behavior, limiting her to the domestic sphere. In her confinement, she creates a world of hallucination based on patterns in the yellow wallpaper. The room becomes her world and she lives in its fantasy, removed from the real world. It's a powerful image, used in the beginning stages of feminist theory to break into a new era of freedom and potential for women.

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