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Kate Chopin and Susan Glaspell- story of an hour, desirees baby, a jury of her peers

By ed10354 Sep 08, 2014 1597 Words
Many female writers write about women’s struggle for equality and how they are looked upon as inferior beings. Kate Chopin and Susan Glaspell exhibit their views about women in many of their short stories. In the short stories “The Story of an Hour”, and “Desiree’s Baby”, Chopin seems to want to address how oppressive treatment on the behalf of men, husbands affects women, wives. In Glaspell’s, “A Jury of Her Peers”, the relationship between men and women imply the oppressive attitudes that men portray of women and their standings as people. Elaine Hedges stated that this story was known for its “challenge to prevailing images or stereo types of women” that society had on them (250). Analytically, the commonality of theses three short stories seems to be these women acting upon the unbearable circumstances, whether it is toward themselves or their oppressor. In many of their works the idea that women’s actions are driven by the men in the story reveals that men are oppressive and dominant and women are somewhat vulnerable, naive and sensitive. Louise Mallard, Desiree Aubigny, and Minnie Foster shared one thing in common: they are the wives of oppressive husbands. Theses authors seem to also show that the women of these stories undergo a transformation from dependent and weak to stronger women free from their husbands in the end. So in the end, due to oppressive male dominance, and a patriarchal society, death is the unconventional outcome for these three characters in some way or form. There are many forms of oppression in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. Not only does Louise Mallard suffer in her medical and marital conditions, but she also poses a threat to herself, as her sister Josephine warns (Rosenblum 2241). This danger is particularly noticeable, since all of the action in the story revolves around Louise Mallard’s conservation. Everything is orchestrated to save her from any sudden or extreme distress. In the end, her oppressor is what survives: Brantley Mallard’s return from the “dead” signals the return of her oppressive condition and ensures that Louise Mallard will experience no more than a momentary change in her newly found, yet now lost freedom. It is this unchanging prospect of her oppressive condition that proves Louise Mallard, or rather her circumstances, fatal to herself. Louise’s recognition of her new liberation is at first private. She “abandon[s] herself” in a room of her own where she speaks for the first time, though “under her breath.” She must not make her “joy” known under any circumstance (Chopin293). Conscious of her social duty as a widow to grieve, Louise will at least “weep again when she” beholds his corpse (Chopin 294). Nevertheless, she manifests her joy publicly “there was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” and is therefore punished (Chopin 294). A form of discourse is reincarnated at the end of the story and of Louise’s life through her husband’s return unharmed and the arrival of the doctors, who declare the cause of her death: “[S]he had died of heart disease of joy that kills” (Chopin 295). The oppression under which Louise suffers was by no means unusual for the time. What is ultimately unexpected and sudden in the story is the opportunity for and exploration of her experience of freedom, no matter how transient. Louise’s recognition of her unhappiness illustrates Chopin’s dedication to a woman’s perspective and what it beholds beyond the hold of oppression. In the short story “Desiree’s Baby,” Kate Chopin reveals her idea of the relationship between men and women by showing instances of inferiority and superiority throughout the story. Attitudes that the characters display and how their actions affect each other’s lives, show the impact that men have on women’s lives. In “Desiree’s Baby,” Chopin illustrates her idea of the relationship between men and women by portraying Desiree as a vulnerable and easily affected wife, and Armand is presented as a superior and oppressive husband: “Chopin construes existence as necessarily uncertain. By definition, then to live is to be vulnerable…”(Wolff 76). Throughout “Desiree’s Baby,” Kate Chopin investigates the concept of Armand's immense power over Desiree. At first, Desiree tries to conform to the traditional female role by striving to be an obedient wife. Later in the story, this conformity changes after Desiree gives birth to her part-black son. Armand becomes furious because he believes that Desiree’s race is what alters the color of the baby. This in fact, is due on Armand’s part that the child came to be that way. After that incident, Armand displays his superior and uncaring oppressive attitude when he tells Desiree, “the child is not white; it means you are not white” (Chopin 107). It becomes apparent that Armand’s actions and words greatly affect Desiree when she says, “My mother, they tell me I am not white” (Chopin 107). Desiree’s powerless situation can in many ways be blamed for her unresolved uncertainty about her own racial identity. Desiree’s words show that her life depends on the race, notions, and social class of her husband and consequently, she feels obligated to obey his every desire. Desiree is presented as vulnerable to whatever Armand wants and tells her to do when she says, “Do you want me to go?” (Chopin 108). Desiree displayed through her actions that in many ways, her happiness only comes from pleasing her husband. Therefore, Desiree must decide whether to live completely separate from Armand, or to live with him in constant fear and unpleasantness. Desiree achieves personal freedom and independence from Armand when “she disappeared among the reeds and willows that grew thing along the banks of the deep, sluggish bayou; she did not come back again” (Chopin 108). Robert Arner eminently stated that: [f]ar more was at stake, in [its] ending than the simple discovery that the parent who has driven his wife and child to exile and death on the suspicion that his wife had Negro blood himself the tainted and guilty party” (155). It is not even an option and is unheard of that Armand, being a male holding a respectable background, could possibly be black. Consequently, Desiree feels compelled to leave because she wants to please him (Rosenblum 573). When Desiree decides to kill herself and her child, she shows that she is sensitive and vulnerable to her husband’s oppressive thoughts and actions. Minnie Foster took matters into her own hands after her oppressive husband, John Wright, commits something gruesome and wicked. Minnie would commit something equally gruesome toward her husband as payment for what he did to her. Glaspell successfully conveys the changes of a woman who has to live under the pressure her own husband puts on her; with these brutal actions Minnie Foster has changed from a sweet and pretty young woman to a frightened wife. Glaspell describes Minnie Foster through the opinion of Mrs. Hale as a lively girl who likes to sing... "I hear she used to wear pretty clothes and be lively when she was Minnie Foster . . ." Mrs. Hale says(176). She talks about Minnie again: "I wish you'd seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang"(Glaspell 176). The image of Minnie Foster is used to show, by contrast, what John Wright had done to Minnie. "How she did change" says Mrs. Hale. John Wright abuses Minnie by denying her personality and individuality, and eventually Minnie kills John to escape that oppressive abuse. By extension of the analogy between the Wrights and men and women in general, the idea is that it is only a matter of time before women who are forced to conquer themselves to a male dominated society get fed up and seek revenge on their oppressors. To understand the reasons why Minnie has changed, it is necessary to identify the oppression she was facing and understand it. Minnie Foster was like a caged bird: Mrs. Hale describes Minnie as "kind of like a bird herself real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and fluttery" (Glaspell 179). Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters find Minnie's bird cage in the cupboard, but they do not realize the importance of it until they find the dead bird with its neck brutally broken from strangulation. The comparison here is between Minnie and the bird. The bird is caged just as Minnie is trapped in the abusive, oppressive relationship with John. John Wright figurative strangles the life out of Minnie like he literally strangles the bird. When John kills the bird, he kills the last bit of Minnie, but he makes an immense mistake in doing so. The broken bird cage represents Minnie's freedom from the restrictive role of "Mrs.Wright." Once she is free she takes her revenge for all of the years of abuse and oppression. She strangles the life out of John like he strangled her spirit and her bird. Chopin and Glaspell wrote about what it was to be a woman in a man world: to be ruled by a patriarchal society, lead by oppression. These three distinctly different characters shared a life of misery and in the end found freedom. Whether that freedom was found by simply dying of a heart condition or running into a sluggish bayou with your child or murdering your husband by strangulation: these women found what they needed. A break from the oppressive chains life dealt them, at any cost, even life.

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