A women’s role in society has always been a widely-discussed topic. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin are two stories that explore this issue. Do you want to compare and contrast The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour? Check out the following essay and find useful information for you.
The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour reflect the realism of men’s and women’s relationships. These two stories reveal the problem of women’s desire for freedom. Trying to fit into society’s standards, the main characters deal with their inner conflicts. The problem is intensified by the insensitive attitude of men towards the main characters.
The stories have both: correlation and discrepancies. They play a crucial role in figuring out the key theme of each story. This essay will examine the similarities and differences between these pieces of literature.
Analysis: How Are the Stories Similar?
The stories are not identical, of course. The main characters of both pieces of literature are married women. However, they have different backgrounds and life stories. Louise Mallard, the protagonist of The Story of an Hour, is a young woman with a weak heart. The action of the story happens within an hour. That is why this writing has such a name. In contrast, The Yellow Wallpaper tells the story of three months. Its main character, the narrator, is a young woman that recently gave birth. Her husband, John, assumes that she has postpartum depression. Thus, he decides to take care of his wife’s health and apply isolation therapy on her.
The differences between The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour are quite significant. However, what plays a more crucial role are similarities between the two stories. The related patterns of The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour provide a solid ground for literary criticism. Moreover, they help to highlight the issue of gender roles in society.
Similarity 1: Search for Freedom
The first shared feature of the stories is women’s attempts to gain the desired freedom. In a desperate search for private space, the ladies contradict their husbands on the one hand. On the other hand, they do not express their opposition against men explicitly and loudly. The social standards of that time do not let them do it.
The Yellow Wallpaper tells the story of a young woman who got locked in a disgusting room. Being in an unstable mental state, the narrator spent three months in isolation. Her husband decided that lockdown is the best way to overcome the tough postpartum period. Thus, the young woman spent the entire summer lying in a bed and viewing the irritating yellow wallpaper. The isolation even deepened the depression. The woman was seeking freedom. Yet, she did not achieve it.
Similarly, The Story of an Hour covers the topic of the lack of a woman’s freedom. Mrs. Mallard, the main character of the story, is a delicate lady living a normal life. That is what the readers may feel from the first sight. She has a husband that she kind of loves. And he seems to love and care about her too. However, deep inside, Louise Mallard wants to live to the fullest. She desperately desires to be independent of her husband. She wants freedom. She even repeated the word “freedom” over and over again after she knew about her spouse’s death (Andrea, 3).
Thus, the woman that seeks private space is the first common theme of The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour.
Similarity 2: Patronizing Husbands
In addition to a lack of freedom, both women were also suffering from patronizing husbands. These two aspects are closely connected. Basically, husbands were those people who limited the main characters’ independence.
In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator was suffering from being isolated from the inner world. But it was her husband’s decision. Being a respected physician, John diagnosed his wife and assigned a therapy. Besides locking her in a room, he also did not let hew write. The narrator was passionate about writing. It brought her pleasure. However, her arrogant husband deprived the woman of her joy of communicating and writing. As a result, the woman’s mental health got worse after her patronizing husband’s “therapy.” John did not let his wife become a person she deserves to be.
The Story of an Hour has a similar pattern. Generally, the family of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard seems to be happy. However, if we dive deeper, we can see that there are many pitfalls. Louise Mallard only pretends to be a joyful wife of Brently. Living under the strict control of her husband, the woman fears to say something against him. She indeed wants to be free and self-sufficient. However, malign Brently’s character only lets her stay at home and layout her silk stockings.
Similarity 3: Doctoral Perspective
Another parallel that can drown between the two stories is the doctoral perspective. Both main characters were under the medical treatment of doctors. However, in both cases, the approach was wrong.
The woman from The Yellow Wallpaper was suffering from depression. The recent giving birth caused it. Her husband, John, decided that the most effective way of dealing with the problem is to apply the rest cure. However, in the 19th century, this method was only tried on men. Due to male and female psychological systems being different, the approach did not help. Instead, it only hurt the narrator (Schilb and Clifford, 95).
Mrs. Mallard from The Story of an Hour was also diagnosed wrong. The doctor suggested she died because of being overwhelmed with feelings. The sense of endless joy led to a heart attack. However, the real cause of Louise’s heart attack was different. She could not manage to accept the fact that she is not free. Her husband did not die. This meant that her desperate desire to become independent would never come true. The realization of this fact hit Louise Mallard hard, and her hurt stopped.
Similarity 4: Thoughts via Settings
Settings play an essential role in The Story of an Hour and The Yellow Wallpaper. Similarities of women’s cases help the readers to investigate the characters’ states of mind.
In The Yellow Wallpaper, the narrator was spending the entire time in one room. Initially, she wanted to live in another room. However, her husband put her in a room with yellow papers that irritated the woman. While spending a lot of time at that place, the woman’s mental health was gradually destroying. Finally, she started having illusions. In the pattern of the wallpaper, the narrator viewed a creeping woman. She decided that she needs to release that woman, so she ripped off the wallpaper. The narrator wanted to free herself from her husband’s cage. But because of her mental disorder, she interpreted her thoughts through the settings.
In The Story of an Hour, the settings also reveal the main character’s thoughts. The naturalist observation helps the readers to trace Mrs. Mallard’s behavior. While the woman is around people, she acts naturally, not arousing any suspicions. However, when Louise gets into the room, her actual thoughts disclose. Only being alone, she is brave enough to affirm her feminist ideas.
Therefore, in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour setting are crucial. The rooms are the places where the protagonists show their real personalities and reveal their inner thoughts.
Similarity 5: Liberty through Destruction
The last common element of both stories is the gain of liberty through destruction. Louise Mallard and the narrator of the second story both stick to the norms of the society. Trying to fit into these norms, they are unable to fulfill themselves with freedom. Nevertheless, both women gain their desired liberty through destruction.
The main character of The Yellow Wallpaper felt free after she tore down the wallpaper. The mental disorder of the narrator makes her think that the woman that she sees on the wallpaper seeks freedom just like she does. She decides to destroy the property of the room and “release” the woman from the wallpaper. After doing this, the narrator finally feels free (Gilman, 173).
Similarly, Mrs. Mallard from The Story of an Hour gains her liberty through destruction. However, she did not demolish any property. Her story is a bit different, but the outcome is the same. After finding out that her husband is dead, Louise goes in a room alone. Here, being isolated from people, the woman realizes that she is finally independent. Hence, we can assume that Mrs. Mallard felt free after her husband’s life was destructed (Chopin, 83).
Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Kate Chopin are two writers that discovered the women’s problem of lack of freedom through their pieces of literature. The pattern of feminism in The Story of an Hour and The Yellow Wallpaper shows that females can be independent. They can live to the fullest without strict control of their arrogant husbands.
Both stories cover the issue of unequal gender roles in the society of that time. Although the world has changed since then, women sometimes face the same problems. Thus, modern society still has many things to be improved.
- Short Stories: Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour. 2011. Web.
- Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. 200, New York: Perfection Learning.
- Gilman, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper. 1973, California: Forgotten Books. Print.
- Schilb, John; Clifford, John. Making Literature Matter. 2008, New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Print.