The then encouraged women to rebel from the norm

The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story written by Charlotte
Perkins Gilman in 1892, which describes a woman, the narrator, suffering from a mental illness common in many women
‘temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency’. Throughout the short story, we learn of the prescription
and cure the narrator has been given from her physician husband ‘John’ which
many women were given; ‘the rest cure’. The Story of an Hour is a short story
written by Kate Chopin in 1894 which tells the story of a woman being informed
that her husband has died in a train crash earlier that day. First, overcome with grief, she then starts to
realise her new found independence until she is then informed her husband is
actually alive causing her to die from ‘heart disease – of the joy that kills’.
Oppression within a marriage is shown in both different and similar ways in
each text.

Oppression within a marriage was quite conventional during
the Victorian Era, even though both the writers are American. This is because
women were treated as inferior to men in society,
for example, everything that belonged to a woman then belonged to her husband
once she was married, they were expected to be the perfect housewife and women
were also not allowed to vote. History-based
articles speak of the roles of women in comparison to their husbands, “Not only
was it their job to counterbalance the moral taint of the public sphere in
which their husbands laboured all day, they were also preparing the next
generation to carry on this way of life” (Hughes,
2014). This, therefore, shows that the theme of oppression within a
marriage would likely be mentioned in novels and short stories of the time
periods both texts were written in.

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The idea of the New Woman
arose as a cultural image in the late 19th century and was published
in many newspapers and books, this then encouraged women to rebel from the norm
and take a new-found independence in their lives. As this idea began to show in
local newspapers, it began to make its way into women’s
literature and these novels spoke about courageous women who battled against
the conventional Victorian male views of women as heavily attendant in the house and tested the old sets of accepted
rules. It has been argued that the only reason why the idea of the New Woman
came about was due to the oppression women faced, especially within their
marriages.

This oppression within marriage was quite normal for every
married couple in this time period, and is shown in both “The Yellow Wallpaper”
and “A Story of An Hour”. This is the first similarity between both texts as
they present oppression within marriage as it was at the time.

Another similarity between the way Kate
Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman present the idea of oppression within
marriage is that both the female characters are oppressed by their husbands
taking advantage of their illnesses. The characters illnesses represent a
weakness and as I previously established, the narrator in “The Yellow
Wallpaper” was suffering from nervous depression and Mrs Mallard in “The Story
of An Hour” was suffering from heart disease and in both texts, the authors
make the audience aware that the husbands could be using their illnesses to
manipulate them. We can see this in “The Yellow Wallpaper” when the narrator
says “John is a physician, and perhaps –perhaps that is one reason I do not get
well faster.”. The repetition of the adverb “perhaps” highlights the weakness
and fear the narrator has towards her husband John as she almost seems scared
to admit this even though she is only writing in a diary. In ” A Story of An
Hour” when Mrs Mallard says “free, free, free” after realising she can be
independent now her husband is dead, this repetition emphasises the
overwhelming feeling of independence.

Another similarity of how both the writer’s
present oppression within marriage is the setting of both short stories. In “A
Story of An Hour” the setting of the bedroom is the most symbolic as the window
inside it represents her new life, “There stood, facing the open window, a
comfortable, roomy chair” and the door that she closes so her sister can’t
follow her represents the ending of her old life, “she went away to her room
alone. She would have no one follow her”. The window is quite symbolic as, as
well as representing her new life it also represents an escape from her old
life, which makes the audience think of ideas as to why she had to escape her
old life and how it could be to do with how oppressed she was within her
marriage. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the setting of the bedroom is also
symbolic, specifically with the windows. “the windows are barred for little
children”, this description informs the audience that this could have been a
place where someone was trapped which could lead them to think about how John
demands they stay in that room even though the narrator finds the wallpaper
unsettling. This could be used to argue how the setting proves the narrator was
being oppressed within her marriage.

Symbols in both texts also offer
similarities in the way both writers present ideas about oppression within a
marriage. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” the main symbol is the wallpaper which
represents the entrapment of the narrator and the colour of the wallpaper which
is described as “unclean yellow” and “nightmarish, hideous paper” is a symbol
of the style of living of women during the time and how they were treated. A
symbol in “A Story of An Hour” is the elixir she mentions, “she was drinking
the very elixir of life through that open window”. This symbol is important as
since learning of her husband’s death she is now describing her experiences as
her senses to emphasise the joy she is now feeling, now she isn’t oppressed.

Another similarity in the way both the
writer’s present ideas of oppression is they both use metaphors to highlight
the struggles of both these women which stems from the oppression within their
marriage. In “The Yellow Wallpaper”, the narrator describes the woman she sees
behind the wallpaper “the woman behind it is as simple as can be”. This is a
major metaphor in the short story for the narrator and her struggle to escape
her husband’s oppression and illustrates a parallel to the narrator who is
entrapped and oppressed because of her treatment being given to her by her
husband. In “The Story of an Hour” Mrs Mallard uses a metaphor ” a storm of
grief” to describe her grief because it has all come at once but then it dies
down leaving her independence.

The theme of both these texts is a
patriarchal society in which men have the full power over their wives to shut
them away from the rest of society which sometimes leads to dangerous
consequences regarding their mental and physical health. This links both these
texts together using the patriarchal theme and the illness theme.

Similarities between both texts and the way
oppression within a marriage are presented is the mood of both the short
stories. In “A Story of an Hour” the mood is quite confused and develops
throughout the story as during the beginning the reader sympathises with Mrs
Mallard after the death of her husband “She wept at once, with sudden wild
abandonment, in her sister’s arms”, but that mood changes to happiness because
Mrs Mallard is now free and then following a cyclical structure the mood goes
back to sad after learning of the death of Mrs Mallard. The mood in “The Yellow
Wallpaper” is also confused as the audience is biased in that the story is
being told to them by the narrator from her perspective. The audience knows she
is mentally ill which confuses them to know which characters to trust, this is
because the narrator creates a dislike to John through her descriptions but the
audience also has the thought in the back of their mind that she is suffering
from “nervous depression” so she may not be telling the truth.

A difference in the way both the writers
present ideas about oppression within a marriage in both texts is that
Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes with a tone that leads the audience to think
that John is able to manipulate and oppress the narrator through her illness
“-but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition”.
Now although Mrs Mallard in “A Story of an Hour” has an illness, we don’t see
any evidence from Kate Chopin’s writing to suggest that her husband has every
oppressed her through her illness, it just seems to be a common case of being
oppressed due to the patriarchal society in which they lived in.

Kate Chopin also wrote the novel “The
Awakening” which tells the story of a housewife Edna, who takes her
independence and begins a life she feels in control of. This novel was very
controversial at the time it was written, which was around the same time as
both “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “A Story of an Hour”, as it was one of the
first instances of the New Woman literature. “A Story of an Hour” is no
different as it specifies the relief and true happiness Mrs Mallard is feeling
after her husband’s death, which is not the most common plot of literature
especially in those times.

 As
“The Yellow Wallpaper” was a very popular book due to its conflicted views and
there aren’t many people who don’t enjoy the book or the message it portrays
because this book has to be named one of the first feminist stories to help to
start to bring women back into society and to slowly, as we are still fighting
for this cause now, gain equality and respect for women. “A Story of an Hour”
however, did receive some criticism for its abrupt ending and dogmatic,
straightforward way of telling the story. For example, Chopin tells the story
how she wants it to be imagined instead of being opened up for personal
interpretations which are conventional within literature. This can lead readers
to start to miss the message of the story as it doesn’t have any other accounts
or perspectives of other characters in order for us, the reader, to thoroughly
understand the plot and make sure the message is heard. This is where another
difference between the presentation of ideas about oppression within a marriage
in “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “A Story of an Hour” is shown because “The Yellow
Wallpaper” doesn’t tell the story, Perkins Gilman describes the narrator’s
thoughts and feelings which then influences the audience to come to their own
conclusion which in my opinion lead to the popularity of “The Yellow
Wallpaper”.