The Oppression of Wives in Chopin's The Story of an Hour and Gillman's The Yellow Wallpaper

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Writings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s often depict husbands as controlling. This would lead to the demise of their wives. In “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman the husband’s insistence upon control, leaves their wives longing for the freedom of simple expression. “The Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” illustrates how the husband is the controlling figure in the marriage. The two short stories also expose how the oppression put on them by their husband leaves the women unfulfilled and unhappy with their lives.

The desire of the husband to control the relationship is expressed in their disallowing of their wives to think or act for themselves. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the narrator’s husband John, does not allow his wife to think on her own, rather he tells her what is the right and wrong. “John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition” (Gilman 11). John advises his wife to not think about her own medical condition at all because it would be detrimental for her mind. By doing this, he prevents her from thinking for herself. John does not allow his wife to seek any form of companionship either through socializing or through a journal, saying, “[she] is absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until [she] is well again” (Gilman 11). Mrs. Mallard’s husband from “The Story of an Hour” is also very controlling, although we see this is in a more subtle way. The reader discovers this revelation at the same time as Mrs. Mallard. Once she learns of her husband’s death she starts to realize the years of oppression that have been forced on her by him. “There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for...

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...ard’s husband has been “living her life for her” for a very long time. Therefore she longs to express herself by simply going about living her life exactly how she wants. “Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own.” (Chopin 8). Her desire for freedom was so that she could live everyday without any influence from her husband. With her husband dead she could now finally have the independence that she has always longed for.

Throughout “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Story of an Hour” we, as the reader, see how oppression by husbands during the nineteenth and twentieth century resulted in their wives, quietly longing for freedom. This freedom would be monumental to achieve, but simple in nature. It was the freedom to speak their own minds and makes their own choices.
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