The institute of marriage is one of the core pillars of social structure, and a family unit is anchored on marriage. The latter concept has been both praised and critiqued throughout time by many authors of literature. The given analysis will focus on two key stories titled “The Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” which critically question and ironically present the problematic elements of marriage. Both stories showcase that marriage diminishes one’s freedom and does not provide happiness to the partners involved.
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The first key assertion involves marriage being an unescapable entrapment. In “The Story of an Hour,” Louise Mallard states: “she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” (Chopin 2). In other words, the presence of love and happiness is not a guaranteed component of marriage, which is why the protagonist achieves an epiphany by understanding the freedom brought by the death of her husband. Similarly, in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator states: “John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no reason to suffer, and that satisfies him” (Gilman 3). As with the previous story, happiness is absent from the marriage, and both husbands are unaware of how unhappy their wives are to the point where one is relieved about death, and another justifies through insanity. However, the stories are different in terms of the context of realization, where Louise Mallard understands the value of freedom, but John’s wife is incapable of doing so.
Secondly, unhappiness and the lack of love in marriage are not due to bad partners. Both stories depict husbands from the perspectives of the wives, and there is no evidence to suggest that these men were intentionally evil or immoral. They were acting within the norms of society. In “The Story of an Hour,” Louise Mallard was not abused or subjugated by Brently Mallard, which is indicated by her occasional love for him (Chopin 2). In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator does not consider her husband to be a bad person because she states, “He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick” (Gilman 5). In both cases, husbands are not the reasons for the unhappiness in these marriages, but the wives feel trapped in them regardless. The difference between these stories is the lack of details in “The Story of an Hour,” whereas “The Yellow Paper” showcases a man, who is caring, but also oppressive due to the time period.
Thirdly, marriage is a prime manifestation of irony, which is utilized by both stories. In “The Story of an Hour,” the irony is that Brently was supposed to be dead, but his sudden appearance results in Louise Mallard’s death. It is stated: “but Richards was too late. When the doctors came, they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills” (Chopin 3). In other words, considering the context of her revelations and inner thoughts, the protagonist dies due to shock and distress, where she was expecting to live freely and happily for the rest of her life. However, Brently’s sudden reappearance shatters her dreams and hopes for a better future, which saddens her to the point of death. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the irony is that John’s efforts to help his wife with her depressive condition through room imprisonment results in a worsened state of insanity and wallpaper obsession. The story contains a number of layers of irony, such as a room description of the bed being nailed down and windows barred because of children who used to live before the narrator. The story uses irony to demonstrate the ironic nature of marriage itself, but they differ in the use of the literary tool because one uses situation irony and another uses dramatic one.
Lastly, both stories explore the underlying issues of the institute of marriage, which is socially perceived as an end goal for the couple to achieve to solidify the relationship. However, ultimately, marriage is designed not to ensure happiness for the couples involved but rather to provide a secure and legally obligated environment to raise children. In other words, marriage exists to create an appropriate condition for children’s development, but not for the happiness and satisfaction of parents. It is evident that marriage is not a source of happiness for couples, and it does not depend on whether or not the wives or husbands are good or bad. Marriage becomes ironic if viewed and perceived other than a secure environment for children. The main reason is centered around the notion of love being a freely made decision to prefer a single partner over other options, but as soon as the relationship becomes legally mandated and unfree, the institute of marriage becomes an entrapment for the couples. The examples are the discussed stories, which both show unique scenarios where the trap element of marriage becomes apparent and clear.
Moreover, the foundation of a stable and reliable marriage is the motives for its creation. The motive at the bottom of the soul inclines the individual to actions of a specific orientation in order to satisfy needs. Moreover, the goals of marriage and relationships are most often different. Family harmony ensures social, spiritual, and physical compatibility. Social compatibility is responsible for a similar attitude towards society, perception of the world, and the meaning of life for such social initiative. Spiritual compatibility, in turn, encompasses the community of characters, individual qualities, and values of partners. Physical compatibility is also important, as it is responsible for harmony in the union, a happy pastime, whatever the spouses do. In addition, spouses should have a similar perspective on the distribution of roles and responsibilities in the family.
In conclusion, “The Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” are outstanding ironic expressions of their authors on the critique of marriage. Both wives feel entrapped by their commitments, and in both cases, husbands are not the sources of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The issue is marriage itself, which is designed to create a secure and legally obligated environment for raising children. There is little to no consideration involved in regard to a couple’s happiness, which is why the practice is entrapping and restrictive. Marriage, which used to be a mandatory, traditional ritual, has become less popular in modern society. Currently, there is a loss of the social institution of marriage, a change in the interpretation of this concept, but society is interested in the marital union, even in any form, to be long-term and bring satisfaction to both partners.
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Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” Vogue, Web.
Gilman, Charlotte P. ” The Yellow Wallpaper.” The New England Magazine, Web.