Although Ellen and Louise have different economic circumstances, both are victims of the patriarchal marriage endorsed by society. Their marriages result in Ellen and Louise’s tragic endings: while Louise loses her life, Ellen loses both her sanity and her baby. The aspects of the patriarchal marriages that cause Ellen and Louise’s demise are made explicit through the layout of Ellen and Louise’s houses, which emphasizes their current financial status and the expectations underlying their positions in society; and the scene outside their windows, which symbolically represent their feelings within their marriages.
Even though Louise experiences less freedom in her marriage than Ellen because of the economic disparity between them, both women’s suffering in their patriarchal marriages is made explicit through their movements inside their homes. Chopin’s description of Louise’s two-story house- which contains her separate bedroom, grand stairs, and comfortable chair- implicitly implies that Louise is a member of the upper middle-class both socially and economically. When Louise leaves Josephine and Richard after her husband’s death, she goes to lock herself in her room- which is located on the second floor, away from the front door and the center of the house. When Louise enters her room, where she is unheard and unseen, she begins speculating about her current position in her marriage. She then realizes that she is “Free, free, free!” (96). This realization allows Louise to leave her room for the center of the house; as Louise descends down the stairs, however, her husband comes in and shuts the door behind him. Louise’s freedom ends before it begins, and she dies before she can reach the last step.
Because Ellen’s economic situation is worse than Louise’s, she experiences a less rigid social expectation. Nevertheless, Ellen still suffers from the patriarchal marriage within her poverty. Ellen’s simple and sparsely furnished house explicitly implies her poverty. Even though Ellen is less bound by societal laws than Louise, she is still trapped in her patriarchal marriage; her house, then, is a concrete symbol for her feelings of entrapment within her marriage. Even though Ellen can stand in the “middle of the room” (156), she is only able to do so because no one is present to see her. She is trapped in the house, and unable to leave to assure herself of her husband’s safety. Her inability to open her door, so that she might make sure of her husband’s safety, signifies the abstract prison bars over hr patriarchal marriage. The feeling of prison cell is intensified through the window, which cruelly shows Ellen the outside world that she is forbidden from entering.
The scene outside Louise and Ellen’s open windows symbolizes the women’s inner thoughts, and is a part of their tragic endings. Once Louise is told of her husband’s death, she weeps with “wild abandonment” (95), despite her confusion about her feelings for him: “and yet she had loved...