Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

A. Bryant Mangum


Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Zelda Fitzgerald provide unique insight into the patriarchal worlds they lived in through autobiographical accounts of their lives. The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the diaries of Gilman and her first husband, Charles Walter Stetson, serve as Gilman’s autobiographical texts of the period before, during, and immediately after her breakdown. The correspondence between Fitzgerald and her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as Scott’s letters to Zelda’s psychiatrists serve as a biographical (and, in the case of her letters to Scott, autobiographical) account of her life during the period of her institutionalizations, from 1930 up to Scott’s death in 1940. These biographies and autobiographies, studied in conjunction with their fictionalized autobiographical accounts, Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and Fitzgerald’s Save Me The Waltz, illustrate the struggles these women, and by extension, many women of their time, experienced when they were unable to live up to the expectations a patriarchal society placed on them to be perfect wives and mothers. The construction of the feminine by the patriarchy required women to be complacent, meek, dependent, and infantile, and this construction, complicated by the issues of institutionalization and hysteria, is at the heart of the works of Gilman and Fitzgerald. The subtexts present in their fiction demonstrate that Gilman and Fitzgerald not only understood and felt the pressure of the patriarchal construction of femininity, but were acutely aware of how it could exert itself on women, particularly white, economically privileged women. Both authors, victims of the same patriarchal mechanism that dominated society during the turn of the twentieth century, provide insight into their own perspectives through their autobiographies, and then create fictional worlds in which the implications of these perspectives are realized to the detriment of their protagonists. While critics have examined this focus within individual stories by these writers, they have not been examined together in a comprehensive discussion of the patriarchal construction of the feminine and its manifestation in the autobiographical/biographical and fictional works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Zelda Fitzgerald.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013

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