Compare and contrast the two two different views of women's lives in "Herland" and "The Yellow Wallpaper."

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The two texts present women in a completely contrasting way. In "Herland," for example, the author creates a female fantasy land where there are only women and where no men have existed for hundreds of years. As a result, the society in which they live is a utopia, free from crime and based on mutual cooperation. The three male visitors who find Herland are forced to reexamine their own assumptions of patriarchy and to consider how they associate being male with dominion and power over females. Note the following quote:

When we say men,manmanlymanhood, and all the other masculine-derivatives, we have in the background of our minds a huge vague crowded picture of the world and all its activities... And when we say women, we think female—the sex.

But to these women... the word woman called up all that big background, so far as they had gone in social development; and the word man meant to them only male—the sex.

There is a completely opposite view taken on gender in this world, and the men struggle to accept their own relationships as Terry, for example, feels that he is able to have mastery over his new partner, and cannot accept her as an autonomous equal, even going as far as trying to rape her to prove his dominion. 

If the women in "Herland" are liberated and powerful, this is the polar opposite of the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper." Note the way that the narrator is confined to her bed by her husband, even though she desperately wants to get out and about. Consider also the following quote where the narrator dares to suggest that one reason she remains ill is her husband's advice:

John is a physician, and perhaps--(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this dead paper is a great relief to my mind)--perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster.

The woman in this short story is oppressed and trapped by her husband, who believes, in his male arrogance, that it is he who knows what is best for his wife and not she. The position of the narrator is thus completely different from that of the women in "Herland." 

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The Yellow Wallpaper

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