Analytical Response Essay on the Mother in 'Girl'

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In both the short stories “The Story of An Hour” and “Girl”, Chopin and Kincaid focus heavily on the roles that women must play in order to fit societal norms. While the two stories are written in different times, both views the restraints of societal norms on women as a negative occurrence, railroading women into one singular path of life. While the themes of the stories are very similar, “The Story of an Hour” focuses more upon what happens when the restraints placed upon women are lifted while “Girl” focuses purely on the restraints that society puts upon women.

In “The Story of an Hour”, Chopin tells the story of a woman named Mrs. Mallard who just learned that her husband died in a railroad accident (Chopin 15). While her initial reaction to hearing this news was grief, she shortly begins to feel as if a massive weight has been lifted off her shoulders, resulting in her becoming free. Ironically, the supposed death of her husband resulted in her becoming exceptionally happy because she felt that due to his death, she no longer must be the perfect little housewife that society deemed her to become since birth. Mr. Mallard was not a cruel husband that deserved death, as Mrs. mallard admitted that “she had loved him-sometimes,” it just so happened that she loved the idea of being free more. (Chopin 16). Her newfound freedom is visualized by the beautiful and tranquil view Mrs. Mallard sees while looking outside of her window. The natural beauty might represent that Mrs. Mallard rejected the self that is based purely upon societal expectations of her and instead accepts her true natural self, thus becoming free to do as she pleases, without any of shackles of expectations. Mrs. Mallard herself proclaims to be “Free! Body and soul free!” (Chopin 16). At the end of the story, it is revealed that Mrs. Mallard’s husband was still alive and Mrs. Mallard then “died of heart disease – of joy that kills” (Chopin 16)

Similarly, in “Girl”, Kincaid focuses upon the effect that societal norms and rules affects women when it comes to their lifestyle. The girl in question is being taught by her mother all the things that she must do in order to seem appealing to a suitor. The list is extremely extensive and appears much long then it is to the reader due to the lack of pauses and punctuation within the story. This lack of punctuation is used in order to help to exaggerate the length of the list in order to elucidate to the reader that this list of things is entirely too much to remember and is incredibly restrictive to the average woman. The mother does not want her daughter to become someone “who the baker won’t let near the bread” (Kincaid 75). When the daughter interjects during the mother’s long monologue, the mother does not acknowledge the interjection, confirming to the reader that the mother is not asking her to follow these rules, rather she is demanding that the daughter follows the rules. The daughter’s opinion does not matter to the mother, as the mother appears to believe that if the daughter manages to get a good husband everything will be alright. This directly contradicts “The Story of An Hour,” as Mrs. Mallard did manage to find a good husband, and she is still unhappy with her marriage, likely because she felt as if she never had a choice in the matter.

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The difference between these two stories when it comes to the interpretation of the role of women in society is the time at which each story takes place within the lives of each of the main characters. In “The Story of An Hour,” Mrs. Mallard has already had to deal with the role given to her for the majority of her life, while in “Girl”, the daughter is currently learning about the way in which she should act in order to fulfill her role within society. Mrs. Mallard is rejuvenated by the chance to escape from the confines of her married life, while the daughter is just starting to work her way into a married life. “Girl” focuses more upon the rules and regulations that a woman has to follow in order to be deemed desirable by suitors, while “The Story of An Hour” focuses upon the effects that following those rules and regulations have on the average woman.

The common theme of these two stories is the absence of choice within a woman’s life. Mrs. Mallard believed herself to be restricted due to her marriage and felt that in the death of her husband she finally became free, while in “Girl,” the daughter never had a choice in the matter of regardless of whether she wanted to follow the advice of her mother, as seen by the demanding diction of the mother. In “Girl,” the mother does not ask “can you wash the clothes on Monday,” rather she demands “wash the clothes on Monday,” (Kincaid 74) taking away the girl’s agency in her life. Mrs. Mallard believed that she regained her agency due to the death of her husband, and when she discovered that her newfound freedom was based upon a falsity, her heart could not handle it and caused her to die of a heart attack. After Mrs. Mallard received a small taste of freedom, she could not fathom being stuck in a decision less life ever again. The reason why the girl was able to give up her ability to choose was because the mother was in a position of authority and the girl likely did not have the experience necessary to understand how harmful of a decision that giving up her choice would end up being.

Both stories focused upon the negative aspects of female domesticity, although in “The Story of An Hour” Chopin focused more upon the effects of the cult of female domesticity while in “Girl” Kincaid focused upon how women become trapped in the cult of female domesticity. While the methods by which the attack the cult of domesticity is different, the result is that both stories illustrate how harmful the cult of domesticity is to the average woman and their ability to choose their own life. Fortunately, as times have moved on, the cult of domesticity has weakened significantly, and women are now capable of choosing their own lives and no longer need to define their lives based upon whom they married. There is still inequality that needs to be addressed between man and woman and hopefully further stories such as these can inspire people to work towards the goal of sexual equality.

Works Cited

  1. Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature:
  2. Reading, Thinking, Writing, edited by Michael Meyer and D. Quentin Miller, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2020, pp.15-16
  3. Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature:
  4. Reading, Thinking, Writing, edited by Michael Meyer and D. Quentin Miller, 12th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2020, pp.74-75
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Analytical Response Essay on the Mother in ‘Girl’. (2024, January 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
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