The short stories "Bliss" by Katherine Mansfield and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman have significant similarities in dealing with the theme of identity. Gender identity is a primary concern, as both stories are about married women’s problems, and each features a female, upper-middle class main character. Although she doubtless has personal problems unrelated to her husband, both stories show difficulties in the marital relationship. The husband seems to misunderstand his wife and acts in ways that harm her.
The significant differences between the stories shed light on different aspects of identity. Bertha, the protagonist of "Bliss," believes that she is very happy. She is appreciative of the numerous benefits of her well-to-existence, and the story revolves around a dinner party she and her husband, Harry, are hosting in their home. It seems like the two get along. Bertha especially appreciates loveliness, both in material objects and nature. In the ironic ending, Bertha learns that her happy life is a sham: her husband has been having an affair. As the story ends abruptly with her discovery, the reader does not learn the effect this information will have on the marriage, but she is already on her way to becoming a different person.
The wife who is the first-person narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper," in contrast, is unhappy throughout the story. She understands that she is not well, but she disagrees with her husband’s ideas about her treatment and recovery. She has little say in the matter, however, because John, her husband, is a physician, and he uses his professional superiority to justify the superiority of his ideas over hers. Although she appreciates some aspects of the story’s setting, a lovely estate where they are vacationing, she has increasingly negative impressions of the room where she (but not John) sleeps. The disintegration of her identity is paralleled to her distorted visions of its interior. The changes in her identity are more obviously drastic than what Bertha undergoes, as she suffers a mental breakdown.