The Yellow Wallpaper

Comparing How The Yellow Wallpaper and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Address American Identity College

American literature was founded upon strong ideals rooted in individualism, and as a result, many stories are written with the idea of “what does it mean to be an American?” Both Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” address the concept on what it means to be an American, based on their own lives and perceptions of the world they lived in. They both focus on fragmented protagonists that engage in escapist altercations to their realities to illustrate how they cope with feelings of powerlessness or impotence while being mentally and emotionally repressed by their spouses. However, where the two stories differ is in what type of “American” the protagonists envision and how they view their roles in their greater societies. In the case of “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator is attempting to reject the notion of the good “American woman” and her nightmares stand-in for the repressive world around her whereas Walter Mitty in his story dives into his idealized dreams and fantasies so that he may attempt to become the ideal “American man.”

Both “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” rely on dreams to show how their protagonists view themselves,...

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