This is a short essay that compares a common theme or motif in two works of literature. Choose two works of literature that we have studied so far in this course. Choose a common theme, topic, or motif in these two works. Your essay should present an argument based on one of the following prompts:

How do two stories from either different time periods or different countries treat gender?
How do two stories from either different time periods or different countries contribute to dangerous or positive social norms?

Sample Answer

Sample Answer




Essay: The Portrayal of Gender in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway”


Gender has been a recurring theme in literature, often reflecting and challenging societal norms. In William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth” and Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” the portrayal of gender is a central focus. Despite being from different time periods and genres, both works provide insight into the complexities of gender roles and expectations. This essay will explore how these two works treat the theme of gender and how they contribute to shaping perceptions of gender in their respective contexts.

Thesis Statement

While “Macbeth” reinforces traditional gender roles and the idea of masculinity as power, “Mrs. Dalloway” challenges these norms by portraying characters who defy conventional gender expectations, ultimately advocating for individual agency and freedom from societal constraints.

Portrayal of Gender in “Macbeth”

In Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” the theme of gender is prominent through the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. The play reinforces traditional gender roles of the time, where masculinity is equated with power and ambition, while femininity is associated with weakness and submissiveness. Lady Macbeth, in her quest for power, defies these traditional roles by urging Macbeth to commit regicide to fulfill his ambition for the throne. However, her eventual descent into madness and guilt can be seen as a punishment for her transgression against feminine norms.

Portrayal of Gender in “Mrs. Dalloway”

Contrastingly, Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” challenges traditional gender roles by presenting characters who resist societal expectations. The character of Clarissa Dalloway navigates the constraints of her gender by questioning the roles assigned to her as a wife and socialite. Through Clarissa’s introspection and defiance of societal norms, Woolf advocates for individual agency and self-determination regardless of gender.

Comparison and Conclusion

In comparing “Macbeth” and “Mrs. Dalloway,” it becomes evident that while Shakespeare’s play reinforces traditional gender norms, Woolf’s novel challenges these norms by advocating for individual freedom and agency. The characters in both works navigate the constraints of their gender roles, but while Lady Macbeth faces tragic consequences for defying traditional norms, Clarissa Dalloway finds empowerment through self-reflection and defiance.

In conclusion, the portrayal of gender in literature reflects the societal norms and expectations of the time in which the works were written. “Macbeth” and “Mrs. Dalloway” offer contrasting perspectives on gender, with one reinforcing traditional roles and the other challenging them. Through these works, readers are encouraged to critically examine and question the limitations imposed by gender expectations, ultimately advocating for individual agency and autonomy regardless of societal norms.


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