Gender Roles In The Story Of An Hour And The Necklace

Gender Roles In The Story Of An Hour And The Necklace

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From ancient years to the middle of 20th century being a woman meant being a housewife. Women were repressed. Not only they did not have any rights, except to stay home, do the housework and care for a husband or children, women were considered only a half of human being. As one Russian saying says: "It would be very funny, if it was not so sad." Nowadays, when there are so many feministic coalitions, it is hard to imagine that once upon a time, females were not considered a part of society.
Of course, the roles of women were reflected in the literature. However, because women did not have any status and were not expected to work, more often than not, they were stuck in loveless marriages. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened in the following stories: "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant and "The Story of An Hour" by Kate Chopin.
In both these stories, authors portray two very different yet alike women who have trouble accepting their fate and are trying to reject the life of women of their class. Mathilde Loisel and Louise Mallard are very alike because they dream of something they do not have, then their dreams come true, but destiny plays a fatal role in both stories, and ladies lose everything they had. In both stories, ladies have caring husbands, whom they do not appreciate .Unfortunately, the endings of both stories are tragic.
From the first lines of both stories, it is clear that Mathilde Loisel and Mrs. Mallard dream of living different lives. The only difference between them is that they dream of different treasures.
Mathilde Loisel suffers from her middle-class lifestyle. "She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that; she felt made for that. She would so have liked to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after." (Maupassant, p. 36) It is clear that Mathilde is envious of her reach friend, Madame Forestier and would trade places with her if only she had the chance, but unfortunately she is stuck with her clerk husband in their middle-class apartment.
Unlike Mathilde Loisel, Mrs. Mallard from “The Story of An Hour” doesn’t suffer from her middle-class lifestyle. Mrs. Mallard, who is a fragile woman afflicted with heart trouble, suffers from being trapped in a marriage. She loves her husband, however she longs for freedom.

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When Mrs. Mallard learns about her husband’s death, she is grieving, but she also feels a sense of liberation and grieves more about her lost years of independence rather than her husband's death.
Secondly, both Mathilde and Mrs. Mallard have dreams and thoughts which appear selfish and self-involved.
However, Mathilde’s dreams are about to come true, when her husband comes home from work and hands his wife the invitation to the ball. Monsieur Loisel cares for his wife and knows how unhappy she is. To his astonishment, Mathilde is still not satisfied
“Only I haven’t a dress and I can’t go to the party. Give your invitation to some friend of yours whose wife will be turned out better than I shall.” (Maupassant, p. 37) While Mathilde is selfish, her husband is completely the opposite; therefore, he hands Mathilde the `the money to buy a new dress. Once Mathilde bought a new dress and borrowed a diamond necklace from Madame Forestier, she shined at the ball. Her dreams were finally fulfilled. She was the most beautiful lady in the entire room, every man desired to dance with her, every woman envied her appearance. After Mathilde left the Ministry, she and her husband went looking for a cab, but somehow Mathilde lost the diamond necklace Madame Forestier lent her. Ironically, having her dream fulfilled led Mathilde and her husband to the ten years of poverty and miserable life.
On the other hand, Mrs. Mallard dreams of freedom. At first, she does not even realize it; however, as it turns out, her thoughts regarding freedom were already formed on the unconscious level. Mrs. Mallard, has dreams full of pictures of the coming spring and summer days that would "be her own” (Chopin, p.23). Mrs. Mallard's is enjoying her visions, she is finding them to empowering.
Unlike Mathilde, who was the beauty of the ball, Mrs. Mallard has her triumph while trying to mourn her husband's death. She does not need to feel beautiful and admired in order to fulfill her highest desires. All she needs is freedom, the freedom she deserved and longed for all these years. "Free! Body and soul free!" (Chopin, p.24). However, destiny is always waiting around the corner to change things forever. If in Mathilde’s case, she lost the necklace and had to replace it. Louise’s destiny was even tougher. Mrs. Mallard went downstairs to assure her sister she is alright. To her shock, the front door opened and she saw her “dead” husband. It turned out that he was not in the railroad accident, and there had been some kind of mistake. Mrs. Mallard had a heart trouble, therefore when she saw him, she experienced such an extreme shock that she died from a heart attack.
Finally, Mathilde Loisel and Louise Mallard had one more thing in common - their caring husbands.
When Mathilde lost the necklace, her husband was very supportive. First, he walked all the way to the Ministry in hopes of finding the necklace, then he went to police station, gave an advertisement to newspapers offering a reward, and when the necklace was nowhere to be found, he decided to replace it. He knew that Mathilde will not be able to pay off the loan on her own, because she did not work. Monsieur Loisel sacrificed his career, he had to take on extra jobs during the night, and in the morning he still worked in the Ministry. It took ten long years to pay off the debt of 36 thousands francs, but Monsieur and Madame Loisel did it. From this episode, it is clear how much Monsieur Loisel loves his wife and how dependent she is on him.
Mrs. Mallard, however, did not have any material interest in her husband. She loved her husband, but in her own way. “And yet she had loved him – sometimes. Often she had not” (Chopin, p. 24). She was sorry to learn about his death; however, it did not ruin her joy of being independent. Louise was a young wife of an older man, who put food on her table, while she took care of the house and ran errands. In a way, she was dependent on him, she used his love, while she did not really love him back.
After reading and analyzing both stories, readers may come to a conclusion that two different ladies are actually really alike. Eventhough, the setting is different; readers are able to see some parallels. Both, Mathilde Loisel and Louise Mallard had a desire for something that they had lacked, both ladies ended up in a tragic way, and both were married not because they loved their significant others, but because they did not know any better. Mathilde and Louise did not appreciate their husbands’ efforts, although they were dependent on them. Both stories teach readers about how different women’s roles were.
I am inclined to feel sorry for Louise Mallard rather than for Mathilde Loisel. First of all, Louise did not care for nice dresses and jewels. Secondly, at the end of the story Louise died of heart failure. Well, Louise’s death might be to her benefit. After all, feeling a sense of liberation from her husband, seeing all the wonderful visions of what she could accomplish, who knows how her life would turn out after taking a sip of freedom. Would living with her husband mean the collapse of her dreams and desires? I think so.



Works Cited:

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of An Hour.” Mercury Reader: EAC 150 College English. Eds. Janice Neulieb, Kathleen Shine, and Stephen Ruffus. Boston: Pearson, 2008. Pages 22-25.
Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace.” Mercury Reader: EAC 150 College English. Eds. Janice Neulieb, Kathleen Shine, and Stephen Ruffus. Boston: Pearson, 2008. Pages 35-42.
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