The Story of an Hour,” written by Kate Chopin, and “Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman have common themes. They both portray women’s roles in marriages and society in the 19th century. “The Story of an Hour” involves a woman named Louise, who receives information about her husband’s death. The freedom she feels after her husband’s death ends when he enters the house alive. She is so surprised that she gets a heart attack and dies. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a short story book known as American feminist literature that illustrates physical and mental health in the 19th century. It involves an unknown woman narrator suffering from temporary nervous depression, a disease common during those eras for women after giving birth. Her husband rents a mansion to keep her there. She is kept from working or writing and is only allowed to sleep and eat well, locked in what she describes as a playroom. There is a weird wallpaper in the playroom that mutated the more she stayed there. She starts seeing a figure in the design that she believes is a woman who needs to be fed. She rips the paper and circles around the house believing to have found freedom. “The yellow wallpaper” and “The Story of an Hour” shows how both ladies share similar and different experiences in the male-dominated world.
The two books have several similarities. First, both the “Story of an Hour” and the “Yellow Wallpaper” share the theme of oppressive forces of patriarchal society in the 19th century. Society did not give women any freedom to do what they wanted. They were only obliged to be completely subordinate to their husbands. In the book story for an hour, Mrs. Mallard remembers how she did not even live for herself but under her husband’s rules (Chopin p, 5). On the other hand, in the Yellow Wallpaper, John assumes that he knows what is best for his wife and expects not to be questioned. He forces her to stay in a room she does not like, and her husband denies working or writing (Gilman p, 5).
Secondly, gender roles and domestic life theme is shown in the two stories. Each gender had its roles in society. Men went to work while they were socially and professionally discriminated against. Their gender role was housekeeping. They only stayed at home to take care of the children and the husband. “The Story for an Hour” talks about how louse mallard was left at home by the husband as he went far away, while in the “Yellow Wallpaper,” the wife is forced to stay in the room to recover as the husband went to work. She was not even allowed to write (Gilman, p 7-10).
The two books share the theme of awakening feminine awareness and struggling to get freedom in a man’s world. In “The Story of an Hour,” Louise is glad that her husband died. The death brought a sense of freedom, and for the first time in her life, she felt like she could live for herself. Whereas in the “yellow wallpaper,” the woman’s action of striping the wallpaper off the wall to free the female figure she saw gave her a feeling of freedom. She believed she was the woman in the wallpaper and was now free at last (Oyzon, p 115-124).
Lack of love in marriages is a central theme in both books. Marriages were all about fulfilling the wife and husband’s duties and not affection. In the story of an hour, Louise questions herself about love in their marriage and considers it meaningless. She is even happy about her husband’s death, meaning she never loved him and even said she only loves him sometimes (Chopin, p 6). Similarly, the narrator in the Yellow Wallpaper does not care that her husband fainted but celebrates that she got freedom after stripping the wallpaper. She circles the room and creeps over him, lying on the floor once in a while as she passes him.
Both books talk about the growth of civilization. In the yellow wallpaper, Formal education had been introduced. The narrator was a writer, meaning she had been taught how to read and write. Similarly, the story of an hour shows the growth of civilization when they used newspapers to communicate. This is seen when they receive news from the newspaper’s office about Louise’s husband’s death incident and use a second telegram to confirm if it was true. (Chopin, p 1).
The growth of feminism in the 19th century is portrayed. In” The Yellow Wallpaper,” women wrote literature in secret. They used literature to express the social and professional oppression (Xu, p 852-8550. They were forbidden from writing because men feared that they would use literature to try and defy the male-dominated society. It was a way of silencing them to regard them as powerless and lesser than men. Also, the symbol of a woman figure in the wallpaper trying to free herself represents the growth of feminism (Gilman, p 7-20). While in “The Story of an Hour,” feminist attitude is portrayed when Louise realizes she had now found value in her life after gaining freedom. She was glad she could now explore what it feels to live for herself (Chopin, p 5).
The two books portray the importance of sisterhood. In “The Story of an Hour,” sisterhood is seen after the death of Louise’s husband, she weeps in her sister’s arms, and even after she locks herself in her room, her sister is still concerned about her ( Chopin, p1-2). While in the “Yellow Wallpaper,” the woman is looked after by her sister-in-law. She describes her as a dear girl who takes good care of her. Although she thinks writing drove her sister-in-law crazy, she’s a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper.
Women have no right to self-expression and a sense of identity. According to “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator is denied the freedom to express the things she enjoys, like writing. She writes in secret and hides her writings from John and her sister-in-law (Gilman p, 12). She also fakes her recovery by acing happy and satisfied to please her husband. She tries to convince her husband to move to another room he ignores her. Similarly, in “The Story of an Hour,” Louise has to hide in her room to celebrate her freedom because society expects her to grief instead (Chopin, p 1-2). She cannot express her feeling freely to even her sister for fear of being judged.
There is irony brought out in both stories. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” John uses the rest cure to treat her wife’s mental condition, but instead of healing her, it worsens her (Gilman, p 7-10). Whereas in “The Story of an Hour,” we expect Louise to grief her husband’s death but instead, she is celebrating freedom. The irony is also seen where the people assume Louise dies due to the happy emotions of seeing her husband but instead, it’s the frustration of realizing she did not gain freedom.
Both books illustrate the death of women’s oppression and the rise of freedom for women. The two women show how tired they are of the oppressive marriages. The narrator in the “Yellow Wallpaper” is strong enough to fight for her freedom and finally gains it. Although Mrs. Mallard dies of a heart problem, she is finally liberated from the oppression of toxic marriage. Through her death, we see the end of women’s oppression. (Chopin, p 7).
There are also several differences between the two books. In ” The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator finally gains freedom by fleeing from her husband after he faints. She is strong enough to fight for her rights despite her mental health issues. On the other hand, in “The Story of an Hour,” Louise dies from the emotional reaction to her frustration that her husband was not dead. She is so emotionally weak that she cannot handle losing the freedom she thought she had just gained. Although she never enjoyed her freedom, death was a release from the oppressive marriage.
The growth of technology is an important factor in the “Story of an Hour” book. It is seen where the railroad disaster happened that killed people. It showed that people had begun using the railway for transport. However, the “Yellow Wallpaper” has no evidence relating to the growth of technology.
There is a difference between living conditions in the two stories. In “The Story of an Hour,” there is enough evidence that proves they live a comfortable life. They have a two-story home, roomy and comfortable armchairs which faced the window and showed a great view of whole trees and the sky (Chopin, p 4). However, in the yellow wallpaper, they did not live very comfortably. The woman was kept in a playroom that had a stripped, unclean wallpaper, inharmonious furniture, scratched floor, dug out plaster, and the bed looked like it had been through wars (Gilman, p 8-9).
Women were regarded as mentally fragile in the yellow wallpaper. They suffered from temporary nervous depression, which was common after birth (Gilman, p 1-10). This made the physicians suggest bed rest and ban from working. It made the women look passive, powerless, and silent. However, in the story of an hour, Louise is not said to have suffered from any mental health issues. Even after having a heart attack that caused her death, people assumed she was just overly excited for the return of her husband (Chopin, p 7).
In conclusion, both “The Story of an Hour” and “The Yellow Wallpaper,” show how female characters share character traits and almost similar experiences in the male-dominated world. They have to put up with oppressive marriage, boring female gender roles, and emotional frustrations of their living conditions under the oppressive forces of patriarchal society. In the yellow wallpaper, the narrator had to finally act against the husband to get her freedom while the woman in the story of an hour goes through death as a liberation from oppression to freedom. Both women had a role in the rise of feminism in the 19th century.
Chopin, Kate. The story of an hour. Joe Books Ltd, 2018.
Gilman, C. P. (2019). The yellow wallpaper and other writings. Gibbs Smith.
Alajlan, Lama Abdullah, and Faiza Aljohani. “The Awakening of Female Consciousness in Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour (1894) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper (1892).” (2019). https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/3ckn9/
Özyon, A. “A journey of feminist rebellion through Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper and her novel Herland.” International Journal of Language Academy 8.5 (2020): 115-124. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Arzu-Oezyoen/publication/349254300_A_Journey_of_Feminist_Rebellion_Through_Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman’s_Short_Story_The_Yellow_Wallpaper_and_Her_Novel_Herland/links/6026c7b1a6fdcc37a8218d22/A-Journey-of-Feminist-Rebellion-Through-Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman’s-Short-Story-The-Yellow-Wallpaper-and-Her-Novel-Herland.pdf
Xu, W. A. N. G. “Feminism in The Story of an Hour From the Perspective of Spatial Narrative.” Journal of Literature and Art Studies 9.8 (2019): 852-855. http://www.davidpublisher.com/Public/uploads/Contribute/5d71b59c42874.pdf