Gender Roles in Modern Literature

Romance in modern literature oversees the typical Happily ever after and the image of love made to endure. The fabricated idea of the perfect man made to sweep a woman off her feet in the return of falling at his. Throughout centuries authors have been posing the suppression of women’s thoughts and feelings under the authority of man. Ernest Hemingway and Charlotte Perkins Gilman are two examples of authors who depict the downfall of marriage through gender roles. Hills like White Elephants and The Yellow Wallpaper render two females who succumb to the control of their significant other, leading to the potential distress of marriage.

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The role of man in The Yellow Wallpaper consists of not only a husband but a physician, … of high standing (Gilman 75) who serves as the primary decision maker throughout Jane’s suffering. Treated as a child, Jane is repressed from making her own decisions, believing that, congenial work, with excitement and change (Gilman 75) would do her good. That being said she seizes at his feet with no intention of disagreeing with not only a man who fell in love with her, but also someone who believes …there is no reason to suffer (Gilman 77).

Similarly, Hemingway’s, Hills Like White Elephants presents the same male dominating relationship as Jig falls second to the American. In situations as simple as orderingan alcoholic beverage, Jig lacks the knowledge of another language when she calls on the American being the only one able to interact with the hispanic lady.

The American and the girl with him sat at a table in the shade (Hemingway 139). She is not referred to as woman or lady, but rather called on as the girl. The evolution of girl to woman comes with power, and in comparison of these two works, both women are powerless in the eyes of man. While discussing a certain operation, Jig is described as incapable of making the decision to abort her baby, on her own. Being recognized as a girl rather than a woman, she loses her strength and provides the American with the determination to return to normality where …things will be like they were (Hemingway 141).

Fulfilling the roles of husband, doctor, and caregiver, John is oblivious to how serious his wife’s sickness has turned. Not only is he selfish, but stubborn with his own diagnosis of Jane to be, temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency (Gilman 77). His words eat at her brain, causing her to turn away from the truth and run towards the darkness he provides. By simply allowing himself to listen to his wife, he would recognize her mental instability and provide her with the proper care needed to restore mental function. She continues to write in her journal, I’m glad my case is not serious! (Gilman 77).

In strict comparison with The Yellow Wallpaper, the American is seen to be just as stubborn as John. I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to. (Hemingway 141). By consistently implying that it’s the only thing that made us unhappy (Hemingway 141), Jig is drawn to the idea of regaining that happiness and fulfilling an everlasting marriage. Meanwhile the American is selfish enough to let her lose her first child with a man whom she is completely devoted to. He runs from the idea of settling down andhaving a child as he finds comfort in knowing he can leave whenever. Ultimately, having this baby puts a damper on his escape plan and leaves a mother with no husband.

Both authors provide the prevailing concept of gender roles depicting man to suppress women from their true reality and happiness. Aside from the runoff comparisons, a contrast is found within the two works. The resolution in both short stories is different as in Hills Like White Elephants, it is up to the audience to determine the ending as Hemingway excluded key information from the story such as the American’s name as well as how he chose the story to end. From doing so, the reader can infer that the baby was aborted due to the American constantly insisting that a life without a baby would bring much more happiness to their relationship. Jig was longing for this new happiness and after being constantly reminded and under the control of the American, she chose what was best for him rather than herself.

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Gender Roles in Modern Literature. (2019, Apr 26). Retrieved December 7, 2022 , from

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