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This comparative literary analysis paper examines how traditional gender roles and their impact upon women’s mental health have been explored through literature. An examination of the struggles with mental illness witnessed in both female protagonists in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and The Bell Jar demonstrates the overwhelmingly negative effects of imposing traditional gender roles upon women. These two works show two different cases of female mental illness, however, display an underlying theme that these illnesses are reactionary to societal expectations and pressures. This paper examines the women’s struggle to fit into their designated roles as ‘wife and mother’ and ‘future housewife’ to conclude that these women were not sick, but rather, oppressed and found their escape through ‘madness.’ Gilman and Plath use their fictional works to criticize the treatment of female mental illness and the failure to recognize the link between the oppressive standards placed against women and the resulting ‘madness.’ This comparative paper finds that though the two female protagonists lived nearly 100 years apart, they share many similarities in the struggles they face, the societal pressures placed upon them, and their responses to them. This suggests that these illnesses result from the confining nature of traditional gender roles.


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18 Jul 2022
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  • Subject
    • History, Anthropology, & Philosophy

  • Institution
    • Dahlonega

  • Event location
    • LTC 382

  • Event date
    • 30 March 2015

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Dr. Kwon