What are the differences and similarities between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "A Doll's House"?

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The key similarity is that the two literary works feature women who are in some way subjugated by their husbands, whether directly or indirectly. The key difference is the type of subjugation that each woman endures, and how each of the characters responds to it.

In "The Yellow Wallpaper ...

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The key similarity is that the two literary works feature women who are in some way subjugated by their husbands, whether directly or indirectly. The key difference is the type of subjugation that each woman endures, and how each of the characters responds to it.

In "The Yellow Wallpaper" the unnamed narrator is a woman suffering through postpartum depression. Her husband, as well as her doctor, decide that the best cure for her is to be isolated with zero stimulus. Slowly, the woman implodes under the care of men who do not realize what she really needs. In this case, the narrator believes that her husband wants the best for her but simply does not understand what that entails. She is right. Still, she abides by the expected female mandates imposed by society and his decisions. In the end, she loses her mind and has a meltdown.

In A Doll's House Nora Helmer is a housewife who makes an ethically dubious sacrifice to save her husband's life and lives in constant fear of finding out what would happen if he were to find out. Like the character in "The Yellow Wallpaper," Nora abides by all the strict expectations imposed upon the women of her time. She obeys her husband, acts like a perfect wife and mother, and believes that, if anything were to happen to her regarding what she did, her husband would chivalrously take care of her to keep the family together.

When he finally does find out about Nora's dealings with Krogstad, even though the sacrifice was done for his benefit, he is not grateful about it. Torvald overlooks the sacrifice, focusing on the fact that Nora broke a social rule in the process. Nevertheless, she was still expected to follow the social expectations bestowed upon women and remain in a marriage where she is clearly not appreciated. In the end, even an apology from Torvald is not enough to change Nora's mind. She is done with the charade. She abandons her husband and children, and the reader makes assumptions as to what end she meets.

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The similarities are in the period, the limited setting (all happens in one location in both works—in a home/house), symbolic issues related to the setting, a triggering event around illness or medical intervention in the family, and, especially, the focus on female subjugation, and the desire/attempt to break free.  There are several differences between these two works. The most basic is form: one is a play, and one a story told by the main character. This means viewers get what Nora externalizes—what she says and does—while the narrator of Gilman's story shares thoughts as well. After that, the nature of their rebellion. Nora is emotional at the play's start, and plays at being mindless. The woman in "The Yellow Wallpaper" starts rational, and ends up mad.

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In both the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" and the play A Doll's House, we have a Victorian-era female protagonist who is trapped in some way. For the narrator of "Yellow Wallpaper," she is more literally trapped in a room where she is supposed to be taking the "rest cure" for depression. For Nora of A Doll's House, she is trapped into a prescriptive feminine role that requires her to act submissive and almost childish while deceiving her husband at the same time.

The main difference between the two stories is that the short story's narrator descends into madness. Nora, on the other hand, "awakens" to her situation and decides to leave her husband and start a new life.

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