Freedom for Women in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman and The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
'The Yellow Wallpaper' by Charlotte Perkins Gillman and 'The Story of an Hour' by Kate Chopin are two feminist works in which liberation is the overlying theme. Both of the main characters achieve freedom from their husbands' oppression in these short stories; however, freedom is only achieved through insanity in 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and death in 'The Story of an Hour.' The women in these stories are viewed as very powerful, as they do whatever it takes to free themselves from the oppressive holds of their husbands. Their strength proves these two short stories very influential works of feminism.
Oppression is chief in the achievement of liberation in both short stories. Both of the narrators are oppressed by their husbands, and though they want to be happy, it is impossible due to the way they are treated by their spouses. In ?The Yellow Wallpaper,? John, the nameless narrator?s husband, confines his wife to a room with barred windows and hideous yellow wallpaper because she is ill. He does not allow her to exert herself physically or mentally, prevents her from seeing her friends and family and keeps her under intense scrutiny. While isolated in this room, she begins to go mad, believing that the wallpaper is somehow watching her, and eventually she believes she is a prisoner inside it. The narrator proves that her husband is oppressive when she reveals how afraid she is of him. She says, ?There comes John, and I must put this away?he hates to have me write a word? (Gillman 41).
Likewise, in Kate Chopin?s ?The Story of an Hour? it is perceived that the main character Louise Mallard is oppressed by her husband as well. Though it is never stated outright, the way she reflects on her husband, Brently Mallard, proves that he oppressed her just as Gillman?s narrator was oppressed. Louise is informed that her husband has been killed in accident, and due to a heart disorder, the news is broken to her very carefully. The reader acknowledges that Brently was oppressive by her reaction to the news of his death. Instead of reacting with melancholy feelings, she expresses her joy for her fallen husband. Chopin writes, ?She did not stop to ask if it were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial? (par 12). Louise knows that she should feel upset about her ?dead? husband; however she cannot help to feel relieved that the oppression has ended and that she can finally behave in the manner in which she chooses. It is soon discovered that Brently did not actually die in an accident, which causes the Louise to die.
Oppression plays a large role in comprehending the theme of liberation in both ?The Yellow Wallpaper? and ?The Story of an Hour.? Only after the main characters break the oppressive hold that their husbands have over them...