“The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Story of an Hour”

“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.

Kate Chopin
Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Theme (Women and Restriction)

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.”


The Open Window

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.

Wallpaper that had Women Trapped

Portrait of Men

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.


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