Gender Disparity in 'Story of an Hour'

Topics: Gender, Gender role, Woman Pages: 4 (1557 words) Published: April 23, 2013
Reading Kate Chopin's 'Story of an Hour' leaves on reader's mind a strong theme of the gender disparity present in the institution of marriage. The narrative about a woman's sorrowful state and life under her authoritarian husband introduces Mrs. Mallard first in the exposition paragraph as having a 'heart trouble' which requires 'great care'(pg. 15). It is quite ambiguous as to whether the trouble is physical or emotional. Even so, Chopin uses this trouble as a way of symbolizing the suffering of the woman in the institute of marriage. This central theme is also replicated in Gail Godwin's 'A Sorrowful Woman' as well as Sidonie Collette's 'The Hand'. Godwin depicts the man as the one with the last 'say' and that the woman has no authority of her own. She is to obey her husband, even forcefully. I think Collette on the other hand tries to show the husband's authoritarianism in the institution of marriage from a traditional perspective. This is so because according to her, the inequality has always been clearly set up and the roles well defined such that the husband may not even be able to able to tell how strong his influence on his wife might be. The three stories share the misery of the woman under the man in the institution of marriage.

Whenever the woman has an opinion on anything, it is the point of view of the man that carries the day. His opinion remains undebatable and is the one to be executed, whether false or true. Godwin reveals this by contrasting the woman's thought of herself as 'the luckiest woman in the world' from that of her husband, which states that she is very different (negatively) from them and needs to 'stay away'(pg.40). This is a situational irony because we would expect the man to be happy and gracious to compliments from his wife, but clearly this is not the case. Even when the roles change for a while, and it becomes the time for the man to serve the woman and do the house chores, she seems still doomed to be unhappy...
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