August 19, 2012
At first glance, Chopin’s Story of an Hour (1894) and de Maupassant’s The Necklace (1884), appear to have very little in common. Chopin’s story, as displayed in its title is quite short; while in comparison, de Maupassant tells a much more detailed account of the beleaguered Loisel’s, who must learn from the self-centred Madam Loisel. With de Maupassant’s depiction of his female protagonist as selfish and ungrateful; it is difficult to fathom Chopin, known for her active role in describing woman's oppression in the nineteenth century. Interestingly, Chopin, a realist, did consider de Maupassant to be one of her largest influences. (Powell & Blakely, 2001). By analyzing both stories’ form, content and style, we can see how the authors developed themes of illusion, deception and obligation to marriage, to pinpoint the suffering of women who society renders mute.
Beginning with the form, although both are short stories, there is clearly a variance in length, yet each works to add to the meaning of the story. The Story of an Hour (Chopin, K. 1894), is ingeniously delivered to spell out the space of an hour, works in this form because it is the story of an epiphany. Louise’s revelation of impending freedom is fleeting, enough though, that it becomes the centre piece of the story. Also, there is a short turn around between her weeping “with sudden, wild abandonment” (Chopin, K. 1894), her realization of freedom, and snap ending of her husband returning unscathed, providing the reader with a sharp insight. Yet, Chopin does not stop there, because immediately following Brently’s arrival, Louise dies, having never realized her true independence. In this end, Chopin’s form provides the reader with the fleeting moment women have for independence, merely a daydream before their husband comes home.
On the other hand, de Maupassant takes us on a much slower journey in order to show Madame Loisel’s slow fall from grace. De Maupassant could not possibly have achieved the same effect in telling the story of the Necklace (1884) as quickly as Chopin. First, of course, his story takes much longer than an hour. Secondly, and more importantly, the form of his story is set up in order for us to witness the agony that endures after the necklace is lost.
For 1214 words, we hear of Mathilde dreading her lot in life, envying others, and turning her nose up at things offered to her, such as homemade soup and flowers, by her husband. After the loss of the necklace, de Maupassant describes the gruelling life of the Loisels as they work to purchase the diamonds they believed were owed to Madame Forrestier.
Where form compares favourably between Story of an Hour (1894) and the Necklace (1884), becomes clear here. Just as Louise’s epiphany was fleeting, so was Mathildes. The passage describing Mathilde, dancing in her glory, below, is described in a mere fifty-five words of the story. “She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart” (de Maupassant, G. 1884).
de Maupassant uses the “snap” ending as well, turning readers perception around to make his point. This is where the length of his piece becomes vital to the success of his story as he, with one line, makes his case known – “Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was imitation. It was worth at the very most five hundred francs” (de Maupassant, G. 1884)! . . .As readers, like the Loisels, have fallen into the trap of the Necklace, having been through that extended journey, only to discover it was all for naught. Of course, despite the author soliciting no judgment throughout the text, we are unhappy...