“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin are two stories that in a lot of ways share similarities. In a way both stories are about the struggles for women and the freedom/independence that the women wanted to experience but were not capable of. The freedom that the narrator from Gilman’s story and Mrs. Mallard was not able to experience ends up hurting and changing them. The narrator from Gilman’s story is taken away of any freedom whatsoever and trapped into a room to treat her mental illness, while Mrs. Mallard experiences a sense of freedom for some time just for it to be stripped away in its totality. The stories where both women struggle to find their identity are shaped through the author’s use of theme, symbolism, and portrayal of men. Both women struggle in having psychological dominion and feel like they are restricted by their husbands. Similar experiences in both stories shows the stressful nature of being a woman during those times.
Through the analyzing of these stories, the reader will gain a deeper understanding and overall do what the author intended for. When the authors write these stories, they are made with the idea that they will be analyzed and interpreted as a work of art and even a social cry. In this case it looks like both authors were trying to make a social cry through their stories and portray a deeper meaning to their societies at the time of the writings. In my opinion, in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, she was telling men that sometimes listening to a woman’s feelings can be the cure, even if listening to her meant that the man was undermined in some shape or form. On the contrary, in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, she was raising awareness for the lack of freedom that a woman might have faced back then.
Theme (Women and Restriction)
Both short stories, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Story of an Hour” have similar themes yet there are some contrasting ideas within both stories. Both stories have the resounding idea of gender division and restricted freedom. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator of the story is pushed aside from the very beginning by her husband John and her statement of being sick is disregarded. When the narrator tries explaining that she is sick, her ideas are deemed useless since John is a physician and so is her brother. For example, the narrator is demonstrating her frustration when she says that “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression — a slight hysterical tendency — what is one to do?” (Gilman, 2). In addition, the narrator gives her thoughts on what might be the solution to her illness which she stated “that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good” and also that she “did write for a while in spite of them” but still gender division was to great for her to be heard or taken into consideration (Gilman, 2). When it comes to “The Story of an Hour”, Mrs. Mallard is told that her husband is dead and instead of staying in a state of grievance, she rejoices. Mrs. Mallard is given the sad news about her husband and although she is overcome by sadness at the beginning, the sorrow slowly creeps away. Mrs Mallard was trying to stay in a state of sadness but could not contain the joy of thinking about a life full of freedom. When the story says that “She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes” it was referring to the sadness leaving her for thoughts of freedom (Chopin, 1). Since both stories were written only two years apart in 1892 and 1894, they share a lot of the same ideas which are then converted into themes. Yet, from the times when the stories were written to our present day, the circumstances and the gaps of gender equality have bettered and are not as drastic as before.
The video above demonstrates how themes are a creation of ideas put together to bring forth a resounding medium to the story. Just like in Romeo and Juliet love was an idea, so was men and their thinking an idea in these stories. Yet, in order to make a theme, a combination of ideas was needed and therefore the theme of these stories became that men and their egos became a source of restriction and lack of freedom for women; in addition, the video describes theme as “what the author is saying about his or her subject.”
Throughout the short stories, there are different things that can be interpreted and given deeper meanings. Symbolism is use of symbols to represent ideas and indirect suggestions to what the author is intending to tell the reader. In “The Story of an Hour” one of the symbols that can be broken down is the open window where Mrs. Mallard looks out of. When the sister is trying to comfort her, Mrs. Mallard takes off to her room and the first thing she stood looking at was the open window. The open window itself can be identified as an object through where Mrs. Mallard saw the world with different eyes. She was looking at the world as a new start a new beginning full of freedom and new opportunity. This is why the open window symbolizes the freedom and opportunity that is ready to meet Mrs. Mallard. Through the open window she sees “the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (Chopin, 1). This perspective of seeing things as a new spring life, attribute to the sense that her life was going to be new just like a season barely coming in. When it comes to “The Yellow Wallpaper” one of the symbols is the wallpaper that was in the narrators room. When the narrator was not allowed to have any interaction with the outside world until she improved, she spent all her time in a room isolated. The narrator ended up obsessing over the pattern of the yellow wallpaper and how it has no set pattern. Later, the pattern shifts into something else- what looked like bars of a cage containing a women trying to escape it. That is why when the narrator says that “in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard” showing the reader how she saw a figure trapped (Gilman, 8). These bars that the narrator was looking at symbolized the lack of freedom that she was feeling. Through symbolism we find out that Mrs. Mallard was looking forward to a life full of freedom and that the wallpaper that the narrator became obsessed with was a symbol of lack of freedom for women.
Portrait of Men
In the short stories, both women are overwhelmed by their husbands for two very different reasons but still the men are portrayed in a particular way. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, John which is the narrators husband as well as John’s brothers are both physicians. Both men think that there is actually a psychological problem going on with the narrator, when in fact all she needed was for her husband to listen to her. This brings up the first portrayal of men, which is that men are stubborn and not willing to hear. There were multiple occasions throughout the story where the narrator would try to speak to John but would just be shot down quickly. In order to describe John’s stubbornness, the narrator says “John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures” (Gilman, 1). When it comes to “The Story of an Hour”, even though the husband is not given a vivid description to its entirety, the way that Mrs. Mallard reacts to seeing him tells the reader a lot. The story portrays men as freedom takers and restricting. When Mrs. Mallard is given the news of her dead husband she does show some sadness but her joy overtakes it in the end. Not only this but when she was mourning “she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin, 1). The story ends with the husband coming through the door of the house and Mrs. Mallard falling to the floor dying of a heart disease. The ending is bittersweet because the freedom that she had for a few moments was taken away at the opening of a door. Ironically a death would signify an eternal freedom that she had always been looking for.
Feminism in the 19th century | Atria
Feminism is a word that comes from French. It is derived from the Latin word line 'femina', which means 'woman'. As far…
As seen in the article above, the first wave of feminism started to surge from the 1850s to the 1940s which makes sense why Gilman and Chopin were making their voices heard. When the article says that “The emphasis was on the right to education and paid work” it can be assumed that the characters in Gilman’s and Chopin’s stories were also troubled by their restrictions in their work choices and education.
By having analyzed the entirety of the story by breaking up three literary elements which were theme, symbolism, and portrayal of men there is a solid conclusion that can be made. Back then, men were stubborn in their ways and regardless of whether they saw it as normal or not, they strangled on the freedom of women. The actions taken by them were not justifiable even if a whole society partook in them because a lady should be always treated with respect and dignity.