What is the big similarity between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "A Doll's House"?

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Both works explore the themes of female oppression and gender inequality. In Gilman's short story, the narrator/protagonist is at the complete mercy of her intolerant, authoritative husband, who refuses to listen to her concerns regarding her mental health. She is forced to remain idle in the attic of their...

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Both works explore the themes of female oppression and gender inequality. In Gilman's short story, the narrator/protagonist is at the complete mercy of her intolerant, authoritative husband, who refuses to listen to her concerns regarding her mental health. She is forced to remain idle in the attic of their rented country dwelling as she suffers from postpartum depression. She continually attempts to express her thoughts and concerns regarding the "rest cure" but her voice is suppressed and her thoughts are ignored. The narrator is treated like a sensitive young child, who does not know what is best for herself and must be protected and cared for by a responsible man. Her overbearing husband treats her like a possession and refuses to acknowledge her opinions.

As a woman in the late nineteenth-century society, the narrator lacks independence and control over her life, which is similar to how Nora Helmer is treated in Ibsen's A Doll's House. Nora Helmer is treated like a naive child and she conforms to her role as mother and wife for the majority of the play. She is also at the complete mercy of her husband and lacks independence. Nora's husband, Torvald, treats her like a possession and does not respect her opinions. Unlike the narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper," Nora is not driven insane and makes the dramatic decision to embrace her independence by leaving her insensitive, callous husband. Despite the dramatically different outcomes, both works address female oppression and gender equality in nineteenth-century society.

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The two works are about women's rights, or the lack thereof for both main characters, Nora of The Doll House and the unnamed narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper.  Both women are confined by their marriages, one literally, in The Yellow Wallpaper, Nora, emotionally and intellectually in The Doll House. 

The similarities that the two works share has to do with the rights of women in the late 19th century. Women struggled for many decades in the second half of the 19th century to gain freedom from the control of their husbands.  In the 1840s, the Women's Movement began, women did not get the right to vote until 1920.

Both works illustrate the limited amount of freedom that women in this period had, both express how a woman could be under the complete control of her husband to the point of having no access to money of her own, property or employment opportunities.   

In The Yellow Wallpaper, the unnamed narrator is a woman who is confined in a room, suffering from a nervous condition or post-partum depression because she just had a baby.  She is controlled by her husband and her sister-in-law, she is not permitted to make her own decisions and her access to the outside world is limited to what her caretakers allow.

"Because the narrator is completely dependent on her husband and is allowed no other role than to be a wife and mother, she represents the secondary status of women during the nineteenth century."

In A Doll's House, Nora, the wife in the story or the "doll" is dominated completely by her husband Torvald who refers to her with pet names like Squirrel and singing lark.  He treats her like a child, a possession and he never considers that she is a thinking individual.

"She is viewed as an object, a toy, a child, but never an equal. Her problem is that she is totally dependent upon her husband for all her needs; or she deceives herself into thinking so until the end of the play."

 

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