The world’s literary interest to female psychology and changes in attitude to women has been changed over time. Looking back at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, specific attention should be paid to the works dedicated to studying women’s psychology and mental health with regard to the social norms and values of the time.
At this point, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, as well as A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell shed light on the way females treat marriage, relationships with men, and personal freedom at a certain period of time. From social and historical perspectives, these short stories provide alternative outlooks on female psychology, as well as women’s inner perception of the social values, patterns and norms.
Both stories reveal female progressive thinking over their dominating role in society. However, certain socially predetermined constrains prevent them from fulfilling their talents. In The Story of an Hour, Louise Mallard learns about the death of his husband but, surprisingly to herself, she feels liberated and relieved: “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin 362).
The main heroine of Glaspell’s story, Martha Hale, also strives to reveal herself from the stereotypical thinking and dedicate herself to searching for the truth. As a proof of existing stereotypes, Millar writes, “…because marriage was only one for many possible occupations for a woman, to educate her only for a domestic career would unfairly limit her freedom of choice” (618). Therefore, the necessity to introduce equal social opportunities for males and females is highly important.
Both stories emphasize the ignorance of society to female roles other than wives and mothers. In this respect, the heroines from both stories strive to go beyond the established frames and proof their independence from males. In the story by Chopine, the main heroine is obsessed with her desire to live for herself because he has long been served as a support for his husband.
Despite the grief of her husband’s death, she desperately tries to re-consider her life that is free from boundaries: “When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over under breath: “free, free, free”!” (Chopin 262).
Similar, man’s ignorance of female actual identity and roles is also brightly represented in the second short stories where the protagonist criticizes the way men perform their duties and take responsibilities: “Mrs. Peters at last ventured, as if she felt they ought to be talking as well as the men” (Glaspell 4). The heroine felt that their roles should not be restricted in society because they have a rich basis for using their abilities and talents in revealing the crime.
In conclusion, both short stories belong to the brightest example of feminist literature where the emphasis is placed on exploring women’s psychology through describing their behavior and attitude to the firmly established stereotypes in a 19th century society. Specifically, Chopin and Glaspell shed light on man’s inferior attitude to women’s education because of the misconception that women should perform the role of wives and mother’s only. Therefore, the stories provide a valuable contribution to the development of women’s psychology.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of One Hour. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. Eds. Lawrence Cunningham and John J. Reich. US: Cengage Learning, 2005. Print. 362-363.
Glaspell, Susan. A Jury of Her Peers. US: Digireads.com, 2005. Print.
Milar, Katharine. The First Generation of Women Psychologists and the Psychology of Women. American Psychology. 55.6 (2000): 616-619.