How would you compare "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" to Chechov's "The Proposal," focusing on gender roles and marriage?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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These are two very good texts to think about in relation to the themes of gender roles and marriage. In "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" as well as in Chekhov's play, we see males who are henpecked and oppressed by their relationships with women. It would be easy to look at these texts and think that the role of men in society is to be dominated and abused by their wives and womenfolk, as it is the women who have the superior roles in these situations and it is their husbands and fiances who adopt a more passive role in the face of the women's dominance.

If we have a look at this in action in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," the wife is presented as a nagging harridan who has a particularly annoying habit of repeating her words as she constantly belittles her husband. Note how she scolds her husband after the opening daydream:

"You were up to fifty-five," she said. "You know I don't like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five."

Her constant role in, for example, insisting that Walter Mitty be kept in an almost childlike state and treating any attempts to resist her by suggesting he must be feeling sick or coming down with a fever present Walter Mitty as a very oppressed male in this relationship.

In the same way, in The Proposal, in spite of the obvious animosity between Lomov and Natalia and the way that they do nothing except argue, both characters are shown to be so desperate to get married that they continue to throw themselves at each other in a farcical manner, even though Lomov's hypochondria threatens to kill him off because of the grief that Natalia, before they are even married, gives him. Again, Natalia is presented as dominant and Lomov is shown to be rather weak-willed and henpecked.

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