Throughout the nineteenth century, many female authors covered the theme of marriage with a feminist approach, with stories about women forced to live under husbands’ rules without the opportunity to live happily. The short stories “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman use the theme of marriage and foreshadowing in the story similarly, but use different points of view.
The first similar thing between the two short stories presented for the reader is the theme of marriage and lack of freedom for married women. The main character of Gilman’s story is severely suppressed by the will of her husband, a physician that thinks that her opinion of her being sick is invalid, and proceeds to diagnose her with hysteria. The text of the character’s writings refers to the husband’s opinion and recommendations multiple times, emphasizing to the reader that the character mainly acts according to her husband’s directions and never violates his instructions. For example, in her writings, the woman notes her husband saying that her story-making is “a nervous weakness” and suggests his wife stop writing (Gilman 354). However, the reader could feel that the main character does not show any disapproval of her husband’s actions. Moreover, the reader could feel that both partners love and care for each other with the way the wife respects her husband, and the husband calls his wife ‘little girl’ and ‘darling’ (Gilman 362). Nevertheless, the husband ignores the wife’s request to change the room, the wallpaper, or even leave the house earlier.
The same dynamics of occasional affection occur in the main character of Chopin’s story. The author emphasizes the image of Mrs. Mallard being joyful for the opportunity of her husband leaving her but weeping upon imagining the hands of her husband’ folded in death’ (Chopin 820). The author even points directly that Mrs. Mallard loved him ‘sometimes’ and that love does not compare now to the ‘strongest impulse of her being’ (Chopin 820). Thus, both women never show hate towards their husbands but live an unhappy life because of their restrictions.
In addition to the stories being similar in the theme of marriage and the feminist approach, they both have elements of foreshadowing of the dramatic outcomes laid before the readers. In Chopin’s story, the author states beforehand that Mrs. Mallard “was afflicted with a heart trouble” (Chopin 817). In Gilman’s story, As Gilman’s story is more mysterious, confusing, and more fitting to a horror genre, the author uses foreshadowing to build the tension of the mental struggles of the main character. The mysterious stain on the wall, a ‘smooch’ that runs around the room, turns out to be a stain that the main character made herself by crawling on the floor of the room (Gilman 376). In both cases, the authors use foreshadowing to set the tone for the story and emphasize the inevitability of the character’s tragedy.
Although the stories are similar in elements, theme, and approach, the authors used different points of view. In her story, Gilman uses the first-person point of view, and the story itself is presented in the form of the main character’s writings, which offers the reader an opportunity to witness her mental state. On the contrary, Chopin uses a third-person point of view to follow the actions of Mrs. Mallard and other characters.
Both authors’ works were devoted to issues in marriage relevant at that time. Comparing the stories side by side identified that both women were unhappy but never showed their hatred towards their husbands. Both authors used elements of foreshadowing to emphasizes the inevitable outcome of unhappy relationships, but used different points of view to attract and convince the reader that lack of freedom in marriage is tragic.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour”. The Complete Novels and Stories (The Greatest Writers of All Time), by Kate Chopin, Book House Publishing, 2020, 817-821.
Gilman, Charlotte P. “The Yellow Wallpaper”. The Yellow Wallpaper, Herland, and Selected Writings, by Denise D. Knight and Charlotte P. Gilman, Penguin Books, 2009, 347-377.