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Updated: Nov 23rd, 2021

An expose on oppression in paternal institutions and subsequent feelings emanating from repression

Force brings rebellion; this is a rare ‘tell away’ though it is a fact. Oppression is not the barbarianism of forcing, battering and inhumanly treating, but suppression of rights while maintaining humanity, secluding and inspiring self believe to avert freedom of the self. However, upon departure of the oppressor, the oppressed first experience grief and profound pain and loss. It is during the process of healing and coming into terms with the departure of the loved oppressor that one realizes the beauty of life, the sweetness of freedom and the core values of individual moral obligations to govern his perception, beliefs and social freedoms and rights (Chopin).

This context is well defined through Mrs. Mallard in the contemporarily story ‘the story of an hour’. The writer draws out marriage as a confinement, a notion shared in ‘the yellow wall paper’. The two stories feature confinement and madness as progenies of suppressed oppression.

Mrs. Mallard is a classic case of ‘confinement and madness’. Her perceived conviction that she has been happily married has made her mad. Mrs. Mallard has been imprisoned in marriage leading to confinement in an institution that ‘then’ was sacred. She has not experienced pleasure, love or freedom of being alone and able to decide on her own. This only explains the problem of confinement while the happiness felt after exit from confinement leads to the madness of suppressed emotions.

The theme of oppression

Oppression is a rampant malpractice in institutions. Mrs. Mallard is an example of an individual in an oppressive environment. Her confinement in marriage and its principles holds her hostage by illusion, belief in perfectionism and male benevolence, all which are fallacies that keep her confined in a cocoon of illiteracy. Literary, Mrs. Mallard is not foolish academically, but in an institution-based context. She lacks knowledge about her rights, her freedom, and the world out there. She is inside a room where what is there is yellow wallpaper that hardly changes, moves or flinches to allow change of insight.

In the story ‘the yellow wallpaper’, marriage is seen as an oppressive regime. Women have to tow the man’s line. She is subjected to cultural and social injustices, which she cannot speak about, or muscle due to the sacred nature of marriage.

In the story ‘the story of an hour’, Mrs. Mallard is drawn out as a woman with a heart ailment. However, what the writer wants us to perceive is not the ailment in the physical aspect, but a condition of confinement. Mrs. Mallard has unconsciously surrendered her heart to marriage. Her identity as an individual is within marriage not her personality. She has been oppressed long enough to embed the pain deep in her heart ‘emotionally’ (Dalan, 194). She cannot imagine self-assertion, hence cannot indulge in it at all. During this period, women were subordinates literary while morally marriage enslaved them to their men.

In the Yellow Wallpaper, the story narrator is telling away her sufferings in marriage. Her perspective is aimed at explaining how marriage is oppressive and enslaving. She narrates painfully, almost clinically, how her husband has taken her through hell and eventually married her best friend.

This woman is in subterfuge. With her husband, she cannot perform or function, as she should primarily. The writer wants the reader to understand that, this woman is emotionally and intellectually battered. This is a yoke. She is yoked to slavery of intellectual abuse and emotional battery. She is hollow and wasted by her belief that her husband is a god who has imposed self-will in her. She is confined to this socio-emotional weakness, which is like madness

Both stories condemn marriage and draw it out as a form of female slavery.

Similarity between Mrs. Mallard and Charlotte Perkins Stetson

‘The yellow wall paper’ is an expose on what confinement is like. Confinement in Charlotte’s words is prison. It is a dungeon of oppression. Through short curt sentences, she makes us realize how women are tied up to institutional imprisonment. Institutions, in this case refer to marriage. Charlotte’s story is told from her experience; it is a journey through oppressive and abusive marriage that leads to freedom from this jail (confinement). Mrs. Mallard is not different either. She has been living in this lie long enough to be imbued with fallacies about herself and abilities. Only after her husband’s death does she realize how beautiful life can be.

The woman in ‘the yellow wallpaper’ wants to be freed from this yoke of emotional weakness and male chauvinism. In fact, the story is told from a feminism theory perspective. The objective is to explain how marriage downthrows women and their values. The principles of marriage are entrenched in obliviousness to sell assertion. It is a complete surrender to male dominance and exclusion from worldly pleasures, riches and freedoms (Gilman).

A similar context is identified in the ‘the story of an hour’. Mrs. Mallard has been in restitution or a zombie state during her great marriages days to her now deceased husband. However, upon mourning, she begins to realize how alone she is and that, this freedom to reason outside marriage, to seek herself and to react on her own is sweet. It is as if Mrs. Mallard has been in prison, she is now free to enjoy sweet freedom at last.

In both stories, the women share a common problem, ‘they were repressed’. However, upon exit from this confinement, they start experiencing a suppressed fear that turns into overflowing joy. In Mrs. Mallard’s case, she has been repressing the urge to feel happy, free and able to enjoy life. Her joy for realizing freedom excite her that it fills her weak heart (193-194). Suppressed emotions conquer social convections and she frees herself from the yoke of marriage and the confinement it elicited.

In the ‘the yellow wallpaper’, the yellow wallpaper is indicative of social convections that tie the woman up. This is the source of oppression. There is no way she can turn her face from this yellow wallpaper. This yellow wallpaper is marriage, oppressive social norms and the husbands believe about the role of the woman. The wallpaper is utterly repressive, once the woman seeks to identify what lies beyond; the sickly yellow wallpaper reacts angrily by slapping the woman and tramples on her (Gilman 1892). This is how social convections about marriage cause distress in a woman. It is how this woman was oppressed by marriage and how trying to free oneself from the yoke of marriage causes societal rebuke (Dalan).

Freedom from oppression in both cases

Unfortunately, the woman in both stories attains freedom in difficult circumstances. In the ‘yellow wall paper’, the woman, to achieve freedom from the confinement of this room with yellow wallpaper, she creeps like the women in her perceived thought about women’s pain. She goes mad, a situation defined as ‘mad-sane’. In her state of sanity-madness, she learns about how she can free the woman imprisoned in the room with yellow wallpaper(Gilman). In a final submission to freedom and her desperate attempt to get the yellow paper out of her sight, she screams at her husbands that’s she has finally got out outside the wallpaper and that she cannot be put back.

Finally, she has freed herself from social conventions (Chopin, 193-94).

In the ‘the story of an hour’, the woman finds herself through the death of her husband. Her freedom onsets with the tragic death and her sorrow which gradually lead her to mourning and during this mourning, she understand what freedom is all about.

The writer explains how colossal her joy of self-realization is. The joy of freedom is deemed monstrous; however, the same social conventions still endear fear to her. They want her to believe that the joy she feels is inappropriate and unbecoming ( Gilman,194). However, the joy and hope overwhelm her. She seeks to shun social conventions out of her life completely. This is her effort to achieve freedom from marriage and social conventions.

Similarity in the freedom from marriage in both stories

In both stories, repression is repelled through self-realization. It is described as a process. The emotional journey to freedom is shared in both stories. Women have been oppressed by marriage. Their husbands have been a great cause of distress. Besides societal norms hold them ransom. Social conventions cannot allow then to indulge in self assertion. However, in both cases, the woman undergoes an emotional awakening that salvages her from societal conventions. They become free and indulge in self-assertion wherein they find immense joy.

The joy realized from self-realization is so intense that it has an equal measure to madness. The woman is like a genie in a bottle, he emotions have been bottled and now they are out of confinement. The woman is a sparrow in the air, smelling the air of life, the scent of the rosy beauty of life. She is free and she flies high as an eagle. Joy and newfound meaning to life and living replace her pain in repressive confinement ebbs away to oblivion and it. In this new beginning, the joy overwhelms that Louise Mallard finally gets over her heart problem (Dalan). This is the defining moment that explains how oppression causes pain. Emotional anguish that can only be corrected by freedom and happiness.

Works cited

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper . United States: New England Magazine, 1892. Print.

Chopin. Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Compact 6th ed. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Boston: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2007. 193-94. Print.

Dolan, R. J. “Emotion, Cognition, and Behavior.” Science 298.5596 (2002): 1191-94. JSTOR. Web. 2008.

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