Dr. St. John
March 25, 2011
Marriage; a road to imprisonment
Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour,” and Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” present similar plots about two wives who have grown to feel imprisoned in their own marriages. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” focuses on a woman who feels so entrapped in her own marriage that she begins to feel this type of isolation and imprisonment all around her. She begins to feel as though the room, in which she is being forced to stay in is a prison in itself. “Story of an Hour,” has a similar plot of a woman in an unhappy marriage. This woman however, momentarily escapes her unhappiness when she comes to find out that her husband was thought to have been killed in an accident. The woman’s sudden freedom stemming from life without a husband to hold her back is short lived though, since she finds out at the very end that it is all a mistake. In the stories “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and “Story Of An Hour,” Gilman and Chopin use the same theme in discussing the lack of freedom that was given to women during this time period while using different forms of symbolism and different characterization methods such as types of conflicts, to introduce and describe the burdens the women had to face in each individual story.
Theme is a very important part of fictional writing, and these two stories share a similar theme of women trapped in unhappy marriages. Both stories are about two women with successful husbands who feel suffocated by their lack of ability to live their own lives or make their own decisions. Chopin follows this theme through the main character that, in light of her husband’s death appears more cheerful at the fact that she can live her life free of the restraints her husband had put on her. “There would be no one to live for during these coming years,” she states as she reflects on the fact that she has just been informed of her husband’s death ( Kirszner and Mandell). Gilman follows this theme through the main character in a bit of a different way, by describing the resentment she feels toward her husband ascending from the fact that he has under minded the illness that she believes herself to have, and will not allow her to make her own decisions when it comes to the things she would like to do on a day by day basis. For example, he tells her when to eat and sleep and will not allow her to see her friends that she wishes to go and visit. “I have a scheduled prescription for each hour of the day,” she states in regards to her husband’s controlling nature (Kriszner and Mandell).
The symbolism of both stories suggests that being married is comparable to being in prison, but these symbols stand for happiness in freedom with Chopin and misery and isolation with Gillman. The first use of symbolism by Chopin is when the wife returns to her bedroom after being informed of her husband’s death and takes in all of the spring weather that she can see from her chair.” There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds.” (Kriszner and Mandell). This seems to be a more conventional symbol, suggesting happiness, freedom, or a new beginning. In contrast, Gilman uses much more literary symbolism in her story. One instance of this type of symbolism is when the main character is describing a child hood chair that she had liked so much. She talks about the safety the chair provides her and how it was always there to comfort her. She states that “I used to feel that if any of the other things looked too fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe.” (Kirszner and Mandell). This chair seems to represent much of the same relationship she has with her husband. The actual wallpaper itself is the biggest literary symbol of all in this story. The yellow wallpaper does not seem to play a large part in the story at first, the narrator simply does not care for it, but as the story progresses it begins to represent more...
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