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Compare and contrast the ways in which the short stories The Yellow Wallpaper and The Withered Arm explore the role of women.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the ways in which the short stories The Yellow Wallpaper and The Withered Arm explore the role of women. In your coursework, you should discuss: * Plot and structure * Narrative viewpoint * Characterisation * Language and tone In the late 19th century, women were expected to conform to the conventions of society. This meant that they were expected to get married young, pure and beautiful. They were treated like objects as if men bought them. How the woman felt was irrelevant in this period. Women were expected to produce an 'heir and a spare'. Women were also victim to double standards. For example, women had to deal with a child out of wedlock yet were given no responsibility for this. This contrasts strongly to a woman's role in society today. However, women are still expected to get married and give birth to a child. I am going to explore this issue in two short stories; The Yellow Wallpaper written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1892, and The Withered Arm written by Thomas Hardy in 1887. The Yellow Wallpaper is about a women suffering from postnatal depression that is given the 'rest cure'. ...read more.

Middle

In The Yellow Wallpaper, I feel that John acted caringly towards the speaker, whereas others may feel that John was over protective. In both stories, the female characters were expected to conform to societies expectations of them and if they did not, they were ostracised from society. For example, in The Withered Arm, we learn that Rhoda has had a child out of wedlock with Farmer Lodge (sympathetic background). For this 'terrible sin,' Rhoda is effectively excluded from society; however, no blame is attached to Farmer Lodge. In The Yellow Wallpaper, the speaker opposes convention by trying to become independent and for this, John, Mary and John's sister look down on her, so the speaker, like Rhoda, is excluded from society. This and the feeling of being trapped force the speaker to eventually go mad. These are examples of the double standards that women in Victorian England had to live with. Another example of this of this in The Withered Arm is that women were expected to marry young and produce an 'heir and a spare'. When Gertrude failed to do this, she invited the scorn of her husband who was bitter over her failure to continue his family line. ...read more.

Conclusion

In The Withered Arm, the mystery is how Gertrude's arm becomes withered and in The Yellow Wallpaper, the mystery is the person behind the wallpaper and whether she will get out or not. The climaxes in both stories create a great parallel between them and show how the two authors show their sympathy for women. In The Withered Arm, a woman has to pay the ultimate price in death to break the conventions of society. Gertrude's death also forces Farmer Lodge to see the error of his ways. In The Yellow Wallpaper, The speaker defies the conventions of society by creeping around openly in front of John, however, in the same moment; she appears to have gone mad. This appears to be the only way out for her. Both stories symbolise how hard it was not to conform to society; a person died in one and in the other, a person went mad. They show that emancipation was almost impossible for a woman in Victorian times. The two stories use different narrative viewpoints. The Withered Arm uses the third person narration, which is seen to be more sympathetic towards the plight of women and more objective. The Yellow Wallpaper uses the first person narration, which seems less convincing and bias, however it also symbolises the aloneness of the speaker and her lack of voice empathises her plight. Niall Boyle 11J ...read more.

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