A comparison between The Proposal by Anton Chekhov and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber

10

2500

Modern European playwrights of the twentieth century owe a lot to the plays of Chekhov, as it seen in their urge to unravel the mysteries of the human mind. Chekhov’s plays also critique the roles that women are expected to play in the society and, thus, are vehicles of early feminist thought that revealed the plight of women in patriarchal societies where they had to depend on men and patriarchal wealth for survival and sustenance. The nexus between the economic and the sexual order of the society is sought to be exposed in a rather daring and open manner in the plays of Anton Chekhov. The stories of James Thurber also are famous for their portrayal of the minds of the characters, the most of who are representatives of a sickness that lies outside them, in the society, even though at a superficial reading of the story, one may feel that the character’s sickness lies within. The social understanding of deviance is something that Thurber seeks to accomplish through his short stories. He seeks to understand the causes of deviance in society. The seeds of deviance, according to Thurber, are sown by the society in many cases and are not just the results of individual failures of normal functioning. His stories show that an individual mental failure in many situations points to a malaise that has its roots in the society. His stories also explore the commonness of what is usually considered to be deviant. What is commonly considered to be abnormal is present in most members of the society in small amounts, says Thurber, through the medium of his stories. The two works that are under discussion in this paper have many points of similarity and also have many factors that serve to differentiate them from each other. The Proposal and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are both like the most works of their authors reveal much regarding the working of the minds of the characters and the people of societies in general. The position of men and women in relation to each other is discussed in both works and there is a deep understanding of gender relations that serves as a subtext to the stories of fiction. The understanding if the mental aspects of the characters serve as a means to perceptive the gender roles that are to be executed by people of either sex. After the discussion of the differences between sex and gender that was initiated by Simone de Beauvoir in her book, The Second Sex, there has been an explosion of works regarding the roles that were played by the men and women in society. Chekhov’s play shows remarkable ability to understand many of the differences between sex and gender, many years before Beauvoir came up with her seminal theories that made it easier for people to critique gender relations the way they existed in the society (Beauvoir, 2005). Accordingly, in the works of Thurber there is an understanding of how gender and sex are mixed up in society and, thus, there are many expectations that exist from people of each sex. People, thus, get trapped in gender roles that they may not be