American Lit. / Period 4
9 November 2012
Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Sweat, all tell a sad story of three women living miserable lives oppressed by their husbands, but unable to breakout because it is all they have ever known. While each woman’s circumstance varies, all three are similar in that they require a catalyst for them to see their individual world differently. In each case, the women experience an event that jolts them out of their oppression and reveals that a life of happiness and joy, free of oppression, is actually available to them.
In Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour, Louise Mallard suffers from a severe heart disease but is given a short-lived glimpse of freedom with the reported death of her husband. Right before joining everyone downstairs, Louise, the wife of the “dead” Brently Mallard, “breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long” (p 15). Before Brently’s death, Louise dreaded living a long life with her husband for she was oppressed, controlled, and forced to be dependent on him. After reports of his death, she views herself as a free and independent woman with much to look forward to and prays for living a long, happy life. After the shock and disappointment of seeing her husband waiting at the stairway, still alive, Louise dies immediately, and the doctors said, “she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills” (p 15). Louise does not die of some new obtained joy in seeing her husband, but instead dies of the loss of joy. Brently’s death gave Louise a glimpse of a new, free life, and when that life is abruptly taken from her, the shock and disturbance is what ultimately kills her. Ironically, Louise is overjoyed with the news that her husband is dead and looks forward to her newly found freedom; but upon discovering that he is still alive, she is unable to face her former life and dies instantly.
In The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the woman has lived her whole life viewing herself as inferior to her husband John and is finally recognizing herself as a separate person and independent from her husband. When John notes the woman has “improved” and is “flourishing in spite of the wallpaper,” the woman laughs to herself but has “no intention of telling him that it [is] because of the wall-paper” (p 96). The woman has been trapped inside a “romantic” world with her husband John and she is realizing her individuality and (potential… need new word. Ability to do something/things ?? ). When she laughs to herself, she is secretly breaking away from John and is filtering what he knows. The woman claims she doesn’t “like to look out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast, I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?” (p. 97). In the story’s final scene, the woman has become one with the woman that was being trapped inside of the wallpaper, herself, and has finally become free. She does not like to look at any other women, for she knows that they have suffered the same situation as she; trapped inside homes that were parallel to a prison, tearing up their lives in order to be free, and faking a perfect marriage. The woman realizes that she is her own, individual person and John does not need to know everything.
In Zora Neale Hurston’s Sweat, Delia Jones is in an abusive relationship with her husband Sykes and she realizes that life changes once she began to stand up for herself. Sykes has always mistreated Delia, sleeping with other women, spending Delia’s hard-earned money, and mentally and physically abusing her, but Delia has reached a point where her “habitual meekness seemed to slip from her shoulders like a blown scarf” and when he approaches her in the kitchen, “she seized the iron skillet from the stove and struck a