Compareand Contrast the Story of an Hour and Yellow Wallpaper
TheYellowWallpaperby Charlotte Gilman narrates a tragic story of a woman’s fall intomadness and depression. After the protagonist had a nervouscondition, her husband moved her to a country house to recuperate(Fanghui10).Her physician husband, John, has a condescending attitude towards herwhere he assigns her room without her consent. The narrator dealswith the restrictions and rebels against the constraints by keeping asecret diary. John lectures in the city and leaves her without muchemotional support except his sister, Jennie, whose duties are limitedto household chores (Berenji223).The pattern in the story shows a world of loneliness and helplessnesswhere the protagonist is deprived any form of physical andintellectual stimulation. However, she uses her imagination to createa world where captive women wait to be freed. On the other hand, theStory of an HourbyKateChopin tells the story of a woman, Louise Mallard, suffering from aheart condition whose husband dies in a tragic road accident.However, Louise is not crushed by Mr. Mallard’s death although sheloved him because he treated her kindly. Initially, Louise isreluctant to admit that she is not distressed but finally realizesthat she was no longer bound to her husband’s wishes, which makesher feel free and even longs for a longer life (Berenji230).Nonetheless, Mr. Mallard came back and on seeing him, she is shockedcausing her death dues to her weak heart. Although the storiescontrast in their style of narration, use of literary devices, anddifferences in main characters’ traits, they are similar in theirmajor themes about the struggle of women in the 1800s, oppression,and desire for freedom, use of metaphors, and they educate peopleabout sexism.
First,the two short stories have a common theme about the struggles ofwomen during the nineteenth century due to oppression. In bothstories, the main characters have little freedom, and they felt likethey did not have a way to escape their depressing situation.Besides, both authors portray men as superior who control the mainfemale characters (Berenji221).For example, in Chopin’s story, the main character was trapped byher husband, and she only felt free when she thought he was dead.Louise believes that her husband controls all aspects of her life,and she did not think that anyone has such right over anotherperson’s life (Sabbaghand Saghaei 297). Louisedesires a life where no one dictates all her actions and where she isfree to make her decision without being under the constant scrutinyof her husband. Likewise, in the YellowWallpaper,the narrator’s husband controlled her physical and mentally sincehe locks her in a room and does not allow her to have any form ofphysical or mental simulation even one as simple as keeping a diaryor receiving visitors (Fanghui13).Hence, both stories show not only the benefits but also the sufferingthe female characters endure for having powerful men in their life.
Consequently,the characters wish to drive their husbands away to attain somefreedom. In the YellowWallpaper,the narrator is glad that her case is not as severe as other medicalcases John deals with, which keeps him away all day and sometimes atnight. Therefore, she seems happy when her husband is away as she isleft to do as she pleases without her husband’s interference(Berenji229).Furthermore, the narrator frequently rebels her husband’s commands,by writing in her diary and even moves the bed when she is alone inthe room. However, Louise freedom is sudden and only lasts for ashort time (Berenji230).Equally, Louise’s craving for freedom is so strong that when shereceives news of her husband’s death, she is relieved and yearnsfor longer lifer now that she would be living by herself (Berenji231).The two authors show that women can be free if they break through thesocial barriers forced upon them based on gender.
Additionally,both Gilman and Chopin use men as some form of metaphor as theyrepresent how limited women lives were during the nineteenth century.In Chopin’s story, the main character feels free when she thinksher husband is dead. Thus, his death provided a loophole in theconstraints that women faced in marriage. Louise experiences a senseof relief after Mallard’s death and from her thoughts it showsthat oppression and control must have characterized her married life(Sabbaghand Saghaei 298).For example, after the sad news of Mr. Mallard’s death, Louiseopened and spread out her arms as though to welcome the anticipatedfreedom and joy. Similarly, the main character in Gilman’s story isliterally trapped in a room by her husband. He makes her feelhelpless and inferior, which portrays how the laws were restrictingfor women (Fanghui 10). Therefore, she escapes the oppression bylosing herself into the wallpaper.
Evenso, the stories are different in the style of narration. The YellowWallpaperis narrated from a first-person perspective (Berenji224).Gilman shows the struggle women went through using her personalstruggles. The author uses John and the mansion as a symbol ofoppressive power in the narrator’s life since they both limit herconnection to the outside world (Berenji228).In contrast, Storyof an Houris narrated using a third-person perspective(Berenji 230).Therefore, Chopin used Louise character to show women that there ismore to life if they were unmarried because they would be truly free.Chopin uses flashbacks in her narrations to interpret the mainthemes. However, Gilman cannot use flashbacks or prolepsisbecause the shortstory is written in the form of a diary (Berenji229).
Moreover,the two main characters have distinct traits as they portray adifferent quality of rationality. Louise seems more rational of thetwo characters. She is very articulate, well aware of what she wants,and her depiction of life is intelligent and very clear. For example,Louise has a very acute sense of hearing, and she is aware of hersurroundings. Louise faintly hears the notes of a song from adistance and countless sparrows twittering in the eaves. Hence, sheshows great individual freedom and female independence. On thecontrary, the main character in the YellowWallpapershows an irrational trait. She is fixated with the wallpaper in herroom, and she stares at it with an intention of finding some meaningin her life. Thus, looking at the wallpaper is the only way shepasses time confined in a room. However, she gives crazy descriptionsof the wallpaper such as “the outlines run off in great slantingwaves of optic horror” (Berenji229).Her expression shows some level of insanity, which indicates that shesees something she does not want see. During the six-week stay in thehouse, she focuses all her mental energy into dysfunctional taskssuch as figuring out the wallpaper, which creates trouble whenrelating to other people (Berenji226).Besides, she does not seem to have an identity as she has given up onwho she was before the insanity. For example, Gilman shows that thenarrator’s success in self-identification is short-term. “Thenarrator does not have any chances of success, and she end up inmadness” (Berenji229).
Anotherdifference is the use of the literary techniques and symbols to showhow oppression of women can lead to disastrous consequences. Forinstance, Chopin uses irony in a comical twist to show the sense ofliberation Louise acquired with the news of her husband’s death(Sabbaghand Saghaei 301).Louise is overjoyed when she learns that Mallard is dead. However,Louise’s joy does not last for long since her supposedly deadhusband was alive, which caused her death due to the sudden shock(Fanghui297).Conversely, Gilman prolongs the irony throughout the story. John istrying to cure his wife, but he has subjected her to solitude, whichhas the opposite effect from what was intended as it drives herinsane. Therefore, his genuine concern for his wife’s safety hadironically driven her to severe insanity and illness. Besides, Mrs.Mallard does not have a major role to play in finding her freedomunlike the main character in the YellowWallpaperwho has to be actively involved in the process to find her freedom(Berenji230).
Inconclusion, both stories narrate the experiences of women during thenineteenth century. They describe submissiveness and obedience ofmost women to the male authority figures. Both stories were writtenon controversial topic when most women were contempt with the thensituation in the society while others were fed up of genderinequalities and started to take part in social change. The storiesare both centralized on feministic views of women during thenineteenth century. However, the authors employ different writingstyles. Chopin narrates the story from a first-person viewpoint whilethe Gilman writes using a third-person perspective. Additionally,Chopin uses irony in a comical twist to show the outcome of the storywhile Gilman uses irony throughout the story to show how the maincharacter fell into insanity in search of her liberation. Eventually,both female characters achieve their desires for freedom from theirhusband’s rules although using different means. Nonetheless, ittakes a lot of courage for both Gilman and Chopin to speak aboutsensitive social issues in a time where women did not have much voicein the society. Therefore, they both used their talents to getthrough to people and make some much-needed social changes.
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Fanghui,Wang. "Trapped and Silenced: Claustrophobic Fear in the YellowWallpaper and the Handmaid’s Tale." Studiesin Literature and Language5.2 (2012): 10-5. Print.
Sabbagh,Mahmoud Reza Ghorban and Mehri, Ghafourian Saghaei. "Conjured-UpReality Shattered: Examining the “Uncertain” Ideology UnderlyingChopin`s “The Story of an Hour." Procedia- Social and Behavioral Sciences158 (2014): 296-303. Print.