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Women's Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Withered Arm

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Women's Roles in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Withered Arm

In the late 19th century, women were expected to conform to the conventions of society. This meant that they were expected to get married young, pure and beautiful. They were treated like objects as if men bought them. How the woman felt was irrelevant in this period.
Women were expected to produce an 'heir and a spare'. Women were also victim to double standards. For example, women had to deal with a child out of wedlock yet were given no responsibility for this.

This contrasts strongly to a woman's role in society today. However, women are still expected to get married and give birth to a child.

I am going to explore this issue in two short stories; The Yellow
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Hardy uses a technique called sympathetic background to show us this when he tells of how Rhoda sat apart from the rest in the milking barn and lived on a lonely spot away from the other milkmaids.

In The Yellow Wallpaper, Gilman also shows sympathy for the plight of women. Like Hardy, she also uses the sympathetic background technique when she illustrates the oppression of the speaker by John and by society. This is illustrated clearly from the very beginning of the story where the speaker says "But what is one to do?" This shows how she feels she is being trapped and oppressed by society's expectations of her.

In The Withered Arm, I feel that Farmer Lodge genuinely believed that he was doing nothing wrong be ignoring and looking down on Rhoda and her son because he felt society expected him to do that, however other people may believe that it was unfair that a woman was left in that position. In The Yellow Wallpaper, I feel that John acted caringly towards the speaker, whereas others may feel that John was over protective. In both stories, the female characters were expected to conform to societies expectations of them and if they did not, they were ostracised from society.

For example, in The Withered Arm, we learn that Rhoda has had a child out of wedlock with Farmer Lodge (sympathetic background). For this
'terrible sin,' Rhoda is effectively excluded from society; however, no blame is
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