Oppression of Women in 19th Century Literature
In the stories “The Jewelry” by Guy de Maupassant, “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the female characters are unequal and less important than the men in society. The duties of women during this time period did not consist of much more than seeing to her husband’s needs and caring for the home and children. The authors show the lack of independence women were allowed in the 1800s, especially in marriage. The stories express women’s cry for equality and their feelings of entrapment in their marriage. Each story elaborates on the importance of social class in the 19th century, how women were presented in society, and how society trapped and defined them as individuals. Maupassant conveys the importance of marriage during this time frame when he includes in “The Jewelry” that Mrs. Lantin’s mother visited bourgeois families in hopes of marrying her daughter off (Booth69). The public’s view on matrimony took a toll on the independent lives and decisions of women. A woman’s image at this time was important; it reflected who they were, as well as where they came from. Expectations for women to fulfill their duties as a homemaker left little room to deviate from the social normality. Women usually depended on their husband’s income to support their lifestyle; seldom were they employed. Therefore, many women fancied men who were of a high social class. In “The Jewelry”, Mrs. Lantin’s mother searched among the families of the middle class to find a husband for her daughter. Maupassant mentions in the story that Mrs. Lantin and her mother were poor. In order to relieve her daughter of the burdens of poverty, Mrs. Lantin’s mother tried to find a husband who was of a higher social status. Due to the substantial increase in the size, power, and prestige of the middle class, the 19th century became known as “the century of the middle class”(“Women in the Middle Class”...
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Booth, Allison, and Kely J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 10th ed. Ed. Peter Simon. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.
McElligott, Caitlin. “The 19th Century Debate.” Women’s Higher Education in the United States. N.p. n.d. Web. 24 February 2013.
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“Women in the Middle Class in the 19th Century.” http://web.clark.edu/afisher/HIST253/lecture_text/WomenMiddleClass_19c_Europe.pdf. N.p. n.d. Web. 2 March 2013.
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