Both Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin

Published: 2021-09-11 16:35:10
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Both Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin give the reader a taste of what marriage must have been like and is still like for some. Both the narrator in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and Mrs. Mallard in “Story of an Hour” are repressed wives. The society they live in and gender roles contribute to their repressed states. Both Chopin and Gilman write of women’s’ issues in many of their works and explore the roles and lives of women but in very different ways. Both authors show us women who feel very trapped and do not have control of even the most obvious aspects of their lives.

Freedom is achieved in very unconventional ways in both these stories, but the kind of freedom these narrators achieve is not available to most women of the time. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator, who significantly is never named, is significantly repressed by her husband. Her husband is a doctor who is at best patronizing and at worst demeaning to her For example, “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage” (Gilman). This quote is included to make the reader question this relationship.



Were women supposed to be laughed at in marriage? Another example of this would be “Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose” (Gilman). Again, her husband is patronizing her. It is not that she doesn’t love her husband or even that he doesn’t love her. It is simply that this is the way marriage is expected to be. She must bend to his every whim and do exactly what he tells her. She doesn’t even have control of her own body or her own medical treatment in this story. Her husband is a man and a doctor, both of which make him “right.
” The reader infers that the narrator has recently had a baby and is suffering from post-partum depression, which is undiagnosed at the time Gilman writes. Her husband John has taken her to a vacation home/mental health facility for the summer. She has no say in this decision but is only told to rest and recover. When she wants to go visit her cousins Henry and Julia, she is again turned down. Her husband really plays more of a parental role with her. Eventually she begins to peel the wallpaper to give her something to do, and she sees a woman trapped behind the wallpaper. This woman represents her.
She is trapped in this house, in this life—only she has no one to help her escape. She sets about freeing this woman; only when she does, she suddenly becomes the woman. The narrator says, "I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane! And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back! " (Gilman) Significantly, she has escaped although she has lost her sanity as well. Charlotte Perkins-Gilman herself tells us why she wrote this story, and that is to stop women from going crazy. Women need to free themselves from the bonds of men. In “Story of an Hour,” Kate Chopin’s narrator seems like a typical wife.
Her husband has gone on a hunting trip, and when she gets news of his death, she is at first very sad. Then she begins to understand the ramifications of him being gone, the idea that she can now live for herself, and she celebrates. “She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free! " (Chopin) The narrator realizes exactly what her husband’s death means. “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.
” (Chopin) However, this celebration is brief because she then gets news that in fact, her husband is still alive. She dies of heart failure. Everyone believes that she has died from “the joy that kills,” (Chopin), but the reader knows that she has died over the unpleasant shock that her husband is still alive. Kate Chopin, of course, is implying for us that “real happiness cannot exist without the necessary conditions of freedom and equality. ” While Mrs. Mallard has not been miserable in her marriage, nor did she spend her time thinking about whether her marriage was happy, she has now had a glimpse of what her life would be like alone.
She loved the thought and was excited about facing life alone. The reader understands that while the narrator did not necessarily know it at the time, she was still repressed by her marriage and that constant bending of her will to another human being. Both of these authors provide us with a realistic picture of what marriage could and can be like. They are repressed and trapped in their relationships, but each author shows us a different way out. In Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” ironically the narrator escapes through insanity.
She frees the woman in the wallpaper, thereby freeing herself of societal expectations. In Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour,” the narrator first escapes through the death of her husband and then through her own death. It isn’t that she doesn’t love her husband. She does experience momentary grief, but through her grief and fear, she gets a glimpse of what her future could look like. She understands that she will finally be able to live for herself. So, when she finds out her husband is alive, she dies of a heart attack. How sad it is that these women can escape in no other ways.
Both Gilman and Chopin were masters at allowing the reader to see the way that women were repressed in their society. We don’t hate the men; we just wish women did not have to be so subservient. Works Cited Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour,” http://classiclit. about. com/library/bl- etexts/kchopin/bl-kchop-story. htm Esch, Stacy Tartar. http://brainstorm-services. com/wcu-2005/poe-story-hour. html 2001-2005. Accessed March 18, 2007. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” http://classiclit. about. com/library/bl-etexts/cpgilman/bl-cpgilman-yellowwall. htm

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