Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I was climbing up a mountain path
With many things to do,
Important business of my own,
And other people’s too,
When I ran against a Prejudice
That quite cut off the view
My work was such as could not wait,
My path quite clearly showed,
My strength and time were limited,
I carried quite a load;
And there that hulking Prejudice
Sat all across the road.
So I spoke to him politely,
For he was huge and high,
And begged that he would move a bit
And let me travel by.
He smiled, but as for moving! –
He didn’t even try.
And then I reasoned quietly
With that colossal mule:
My time was short—no other path—
The mountain winds were cool.
I argued like a Solomon;
He sat there like a fool.
Then I flew into a passion,
And I danced and howled and swore.
I pelted and belabored him
Till I was stiff and sore;
He got as mad as I did—
But he sat there as before.
And then I begged him on my knees;
I might be kneeling still
It so I hoped to move that mass
Of obdurate ill-will—
As well invite the monument
To vacate Bunker Hill!
So I sat before him helpless,
In an ecstasy of woe—
The mountain mists were rising fast,
The sun was sinking slow—
When a sudden inspiration came,
As sudden winds do blow.
I took my hat, I took my stick,
My load I settled fair,
I approached that awful incubus
With an absent-mind air—
And I walked directly though him,
As if he wasn’t there!
In her poem entitled “Obstacle” as you can read above, Gilman explained women’s struggle to achieve equality with men in a very vivid illustration. In the first stanza, she symbolized ‘a mountain path’ as the ‘road’ a woman has to pass through to reach that equality. We know that it is quite a hard thing to do to climb a mountain, compared to when we walk on a flat road. Moreover, when we are burdened with many things to do, important business of my own, and other people’s too. This woman, or perhaps we can refer her to Gilman herself, walks through that hard way, bringing with her many things, not only for herself. She does that also for her folk—other women who believe that women are born equal to men. However, in the middle of her way, a Prejudice thwarts her effort. Prejudice here refers to patriarchal society—both men and women—who believe that women are the second sex.
Second stanza strengthens the first, that Gilman’s effort to reach equality was not an easy thing to do, moreover with her limited time and strength. We are not Highlanders that can live hundreds or thousands years, are we? Our time and strength to live in this world is limited. Prejudice made her struggle harder because he hindered her journey.
Third and fourth stanza illustrate the first thing Gilman did to continue her journey; that is to talk to Prejudice politely, quietly, trying to use her common sense, to convince Prejudice about the importance of her effort. The Prejudice seemed to listen to her, but he didn’t do anything to approve her intention, to continue her journey.
The fifth stanza showed Gilman using a more daring effort, to challenge the Prejudice in a sort of duel. It still didn’t work, though.
Feeling exhausted, Gilman changed her trick. The sixth stanzas illustrated Gilman’s way; no longer logical arguing nor haphazard anger. She begged the Prejudice on her knees, to ask for his pity on her. The seventh stanza showed that Gilman almost lost hope, so I sat before him helpless, in an ecstasy of woe-- . However, in the middle of her hopelessness due to the limited time and unfriendly weather, Gilman got a brilliant idea, when a sudden inspiration came, as sudden winds do blow. She depicted it in the last stanza of her poem. she stood up from her kneeling, prepared herself with all her loads and continued her journey. She concluded her effort in the richest last two lines: And I walked directly through him, as if he wasn’t there! She went on her effort, continued her journey, just ignored the Prejudice, considered him not exist. She eventually realized, for ages men have done whatever they wanted to do, ignoring their fellow human creatures—women. For ages women have been considered not exist. Therefore, it is just fair if women do exactly the same thing, ignore the existence of their fellow human creatures—men. Do what we think the best for us, for our betterment, for our own future.
Yogya 07.27 020106