Does it come from within which makes us who we are, or is it our environment that molds us? The debate is on. With the comparison of “Story of an Hour,” written by Kate Chopin and “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut, the idea of society influencing an individual’s identity is put in to picture through different scenarios. Society has rules to be followed, deviance is frowned upon, and obedience only causes repression for the individual who then loses their individuality. The freedom to be ourselves is an important one, and is one worth standing up for.
In the “Story of an Hour,” the main character, Mrs. Mallard, has lost her identity because of her husband. With the death of Mr. Mallard, Mrs. Mallard exclaims that, “there would be no powerful will bending her in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature”(Chopin 222). Often, people in relationships try to mold the other person to fit to their needs. Through Mrs. Mallard’s eyes, this influence whether “a kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime…” (Chopin 222). If someone is intruding on your freedom, which includes the right to be who you are, conflict can build in the relationship. There are those who can refuse the pressure to change, but some crumble underneath the stress and end up changing who they really are.
During the Victorian Era, the time when this piece was written, it was a patriarchal society. Women were expected to be submissive and obedient towards their husbands. Mrs. Mallard speaks of feeling “…pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul” (Chopin 221). She has grown tired of fighting for her voice, her rights, her identity as a woman, and it left her with no other option, but to change for the sake of her husband. Other descriptions of the males dominance placed over her are included in the description of Mrs. Mallard’s self, “she was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression…” (Chopin 222). Women have not always had equal recognition by society, especially in a male dominated one. Those who did away with the gender bias have paved a path much more fulfilling for us women today.
Expectations placed by society regulate behaviors in public and even instill a sense of guilt for feeling a certain emotion. With the death of her husband, Mrs. Mallard rejoices with freedom and refers to this happiness as a monstrous joy. She knew as a participant of society, one is not to be rejoicing from the passing of a partner and, therefore, refers to her happiness as an evil thing. To save face for society “she knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death…”(Chopin 222). The constraints of society kept Mrs. Mallard from being able to express her happiness and share her freedom and forced her to display an emotion that was not being...