While the women of the short story “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, and the drama A Dollhouse by Henrik Ibsen lead very different lives, they are similar in one very obvious way. Both women feel trapped by their husbands and by the expectations society places on them. The repression of Louise and Nora is inflicted upon them by both self and society; how does one remain an individual while also conforming to the traditional female role mandated by society?
Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is a short story about a woman with a heart condition named Louise Mallard, who after hearing the news of her husband’s death, retreats to her bedroom to celebrate her freedom from his “…powerful will bending hers with that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature (Chopin 343).” Once Louise collects herself enough to rejoin her sister and acquaintances downstairs, she enters the room at the exact same time her husband walks through the front door. At the sight of a living Brently, Louise drops dead of a heart attack, presumably, “of joy that kills” (Chopin 343).
Ibsen’s play, A Dollhouse, is the story of Nora Helmer, a housewife and mother to three young children. Her husband, Torvald, treats her like a child, giving her an allowance, monitoring her spending and calling her pet names like “sweet little spendthrift,” “squirrel,” and his “obstinate little woman” (Ibsen 1874, 1875, 1890). Nora pretends to be as unintelligent and agreeable as her husband believes she is in order to keep an illegal bank loan a secret. Once her secret is disclosed by a disgruntled bank employee and Torvald does not volunteer to take the blame for her crime, Nora realizes she no longer loves him and regrets the years she wasted pretending to be someone she is not. She leaves Torvald and their three children in order to “educate” herself (Ibsen 1917).
Mrs. Mallard in “The Story of an Hour”
Cited: Chopin, Kate. "The Story of an Hour." Roberts, Edgar V. and Jacobs, Henry E. Literature An introduction to Reading and Writing. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Chopin, Kate., et al. Kate Chopin 's Private Papers. Bloomington Indiana University Press, 1998. Ibsen, Henrik. "A Dollhouse." Roberts, Edgar V. and Jacobs, Henry E. Literature An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Loving, Jerome. Lost in the Customhouse: Authorship in the American Renaissance. Iowa City: Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Press, 1993. Robbins, Chandler S., Bruun, Bertel, Zim, Herbert S. A Guide to Field Identificaton Birds of North America. Western Publishing Company Inc., 1966. Roberts, Edgar V. and Henry E. Jacobs. Literature An introduction to Reading and Writing. Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.