Kate Chopin is one of the first American feminist writers whose works drew the reader’s attention to the problem of the woman’s freedom in society. In her short work “The Story of an Hour” that was first published in 1894, Chopin considers a woman’s position in the patriarchal society from the feminist view, and it is possible to discuss this story as a feminist statement and analyze it from two perspectives. Thus, specific feminist ideas in “The Story of an Hour” can be discussed from the point of the woman’s inequality in marriage and the point of the woman’s freedom.
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Mrs. Mallard, the main female character of the story is the woman who becomes informed regarding the death of her husband. The woman is expected to demonstrate sorrow and grief because of her loss. However, instead of suffering, this ‘nameless’ female person begins to notice the colors of the world around her: “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air” (Chopin, 2015, p. 524).
Chopin accentuates the fact that the death of the husband is that moment when the woman begins to pay attention to things that were beyond the boundaries of her family. From this point, Mrs. Mallard can be viewed as being dependent on her husband for years. This woman seems to face inequality in her marriage as any other female of her time. This inequality causes social prejudice regarding the woman’s position, reactions, and behavior in different situations.
The other way to discuss the story as a feminist statement is to concentrate on the idea of the woman’s liberation in contrast to demonstrating the woman’s dependence and inequality. Even though Mrs. Mallard is expected to feel certain emotions caused by the death of her husband, this young woman seems to find herself and her identity as a result of this situation. Thus, the reader learns Mrs. Mallard’s name: Louise.
Chopin emphasizes how the woman liberates from the bonds of marriage and acquires her freedom as a personality. As a result, the thoughts about the fact that she is free to make Louise’s eyes become “keen and bright,” and she also thinks about how “she would live for herself” (Chopin, 2015, p. 524). While accentuating her feminist ideal of the woman’s freedom, Chopin states: “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin, 2015, p. 525). In these words, the author combines all her ideas regarding the female’s freedom and social position in one message: the rights and will of women can be oppressed in marriages and society, and they need to find their identity to be liberated.
From this perspective, the woman’s freedom is presented in “The Story of an Hour” from two different angles. On the one hand, it is important to pay attention to the specific position of women in marriages and society because of the experienced inequities and pressures. On the other hand, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of women’s liberation to make her feel free and willing to live a life that is full of joy. These two ways or perspectives are important to help the reader discuss the feminist ideal of the woman’s freedom in the context of Kate Chopin’s short story.
Comparison of Characters and Themes in John Updike’s and Joyce Carol Oates’ Short Stories
Even though John Updike’s “A & P” and Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” seem to have only a few similarities, it is still possible to compare these short stories. The reason is that both authors focus on depicting young characters in their works, and some of the themes presented in these stories reflect each other. From this point, while comparing Updike’s “A & P” and Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” it is possible to state that the stories are similar in terms of characters depicted by the authors and their problems, as well as in terms of themes depicted in the stories as meaningful with the focus on the protagonists.
The main characters portrayed in the discussed two stories are young persons, teenagers, who only start searching their way in life. Much attention should be paid to comparing the female characters of Connie from Oates’ work and ‘Queenie’ from Updike’s story. The authors focus on depicting self-focused female teenagers who are interested in their appearance, and these girls know that males like them. Connie is described as a girl who “had long dark blond hair that drew anyone’s eye to it” (Oates, 2015, p. 126).
Connie likes the feeling when her beauty attracts people’s attention. The same feelings are typical of ‘Queenie’ who “just walked straight on slowly, on these long white prima-donna legs,” while shocking the men who looked at her (Updike, 2015, p. 163). Both girls are depicted by the authors, in the same manner, to draw the reader’s attention to their beauty and visions of themselves. It seems that Connie and ‘Queenie’ are self-centered persons whose behaviors are rather provocative.
The accentuated provocation in the girls’ behaviors is discussed in the stories in the context of the theme of protest. Thus, Connie chooses to protest her mother’s and sister’s ways of life, and she is focused on exploring the life in terms of interacting with males or crossing boundaries that teenagers usually prefer to examine. A kind of protest is also depicted in Updike’s story with the focus on the actions of two characters: ‘Queenie’ and Sammy, the young boy working in the store. ‘Queenie’ seems to ignore adults and their rules, but she fails to oppose Lengel, the manager.
However, the idea of the teenagers’ protest is realized by Sammy who chooses to quit the job to support the girl’s position. Thus, Sammy draws Lengel’s attention and says, “You didn’t have to embarrass them” (Updike, 2015, p. 167). This simple phrase seems to support his decision to quit and demonstrates the desire to be noticed and praised by ‘Queenie’.
However, even though both authors depict the characters of teenagers with the focus on their specific priorities and visions of the world, Oates and Updike tell rather different stories, in which the main characters are teenagers and where the problem of the protest is discussed. While focusing more on the theme of disapproval, it is possible to state that the real protest in Connie’s life is related to her interaction with the stranger when the real protest in Sammy’s life is associated with his attempts to find his way.
From this point, the characters of Connie and Sammy can also be compared if appropriate perspectives are selected. Therefore, “A & P” and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” should be discussed as having similarities in terms of characters and themes.
Chopin, K. (2015). The story of an hour. In K. J. Mays (Ed.), The Norton introduction to literature (pp. 523-525). New York, NY: WW Norton & Company.
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Oates, J. C. (2015). Where are you going, where have you been. In K. J. Mays (Ed.), The Norton introduction to literature (pp. 125-136). New York, NY: WW Norton & Company.
Updike, J. (2015). A & P. In K. J. Mays (Ed.), The Norton introduction to literature (pp. 163-167). New York, NY: WW Norton & Company.