The Impact of Family Relationships in “the Story of an Hour” & “the Yellow Wallpaper”
Family relationships, especially involving spouses can create difficulties and challenges for one or the other, in-turn could create an impact in their relationship. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” are short stories centralized on the view of two married women, the challenges they endure in their relationships and coping with their spouse. Women wanting to have freedom, having to deal with an illness and their position in the household can create such challenges for spouses.
Freedom to women means to be treated as an equal to their spouse, to avoid being controlled with every aspect of their lives. In Kate Chopin’s “The Story of and Hour and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper, both have a setting in the same era of men being dominant over their spouse. In “The Story of an Hour”, the protagonist Mrs. Mallard kept whispering to herself upon hearing the passing of her husband; “…she said it over and over under her breath: Free, free, free! ” (Chopin 2) and “Free! Body and soul free! ” (Chopin 3). In my point of view those feelings that Mrs.
Mallard felt at that moment was finally being let go from her husband’s grasp and the shackles of marriage which was an imprisonment to her. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator of the story was remained nameless is confined in a room with eccentric wallpaper, which I think seems to symbolize the complexity and confusion in her life. The narrator’s freedom in this case would be writing, which did not sit well with her husband based on this quote; “There comes John, and I must put this away – he hates to have me write a word” (Gilman 57).
For those moments the narrator writes in her journal she feels to have freedom and to express herself from reality, but in secret. The way the narrator describes her room as; “it is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore…I should judge, for the windows, are barred for little children and there are rings and things in the walls” (Gilman 56). This portrayal of the room could be described as confinement for the narrator, and a sense feeling trapped. In both short stories, the main characters, Mrs.
Mallard and the narrator have or ended up developing some sort of illness while in their marriages which can create difficulties in their relationship. In “Story of an Hour” it was stated Mrs. Mallard was “affiliated with heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death” (Chopin 1). According to the facts provided in the short story there was no hint or confirmation that she had this condition since her childhood, so objectively speaking, assumptions could be made such as Mrs. Mallard developing the illness over the course of her marriage.
In “Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator is mentally ill and with the advice of her husband, a physician advises her that nothing is wrong, according to the this quote “…you see, he does not believe I am sick…if a physician of high standing and one’s own husband assures friends and relatives that there is nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency” (Gilman 55). For that fact, the husband advises her to be confined in a room, and stating her disapproval, she would say her husband “would not hear of it” (Gilman 56).
As time went by in her room, she looks to have developed fascination with the wallpaper in the room, which she also disliked, using her imagination. Every aspect of the wallpaper was analyzed with thoughts such as “This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had” (Gilman 59) and “The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out” (Gilman 63). These facts could be assumed that she was starting to get mentally unstable being imprisoned, with her spouse not willing to help her; a mental illness was present.
The 18th century is known for husband’s being the dominant gender whereas their spouse is looked upon as “fragile” while their thoughts and suggestions being ignored. The husband’s duty would be that they are the income earners whereas the wife would preform her duties as what a typical wife would do during that era; run the household. Women would want to speak up but are afraid that it would show disrespect and as time goes on would eventually lead to resentment. In “Story of an Hour” Mrs.
Mallard was hearing the news of her husband’s passing, upon receiving it, she would have such joy inside her which led to her death; “when the doctor’s came they said she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills” (Chopin 4). The story doesn’t elaborate the details of her marriage, only in the present, assumptions could be made how Mrs. Millard’s marriage was as a woman in the 18th century, and especially with the reaction she had upon hearing the news. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator’s husband was the main income earner with a “high standing position” (Gilman 55), while the wife was home.
A quote said by the husband was “what is it little girl? He asked. Don’t go walking about like that – you’ll get cold” (Gilman 63). The fact provided in my view is that the husband doesn’t see the narrator as his wife, but as a child. As time would go it would seem like the narrator would have resentment towards the husband, even though he is doing no harm such as “ he is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction” (Gilman 56).
In the end, she would say “I’ve got out at last, said I, in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back! ” (Gilman 70). The fact would assume that she was able to free herself from him and would rip the paper off in spite of her husband, which would show hate. In conclusion, in the two short stories, “Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper”, have two women in the same era enduring difficulties and challenges with spouses.
Women wanting to have freedom, being treated as equals, developing or encountering an illness and the position in the household would lead to challenges and in can have an impact on their relationship. Chopin, K. “The Story of an Hour. ” The Mercury Reader: A Custom Publication. Comp. M. Rubens. Toronto: Pearson Custom Publications, 2006. 1-4. Gilman, C. “The Yellow Wallpaper. ” The Mercury Reader: A Custom Publication. Comp. M. Rubens. Toronto: Pearson Custom Publications, 2006. 54-70.