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Essay on the Feminist Background of 'The Story of an Hour' and 'The Yellow Wallpaper'

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There are always parallels when you compare two things, no matter how hard you try to differentiate them, since all things come from one place and spread. This happens to be the case with ‘The Story of an Hour’ by Kate Chopin and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Both of these authors come from the same period and geographical location, which means that their writings have some similarities due to their location and literary period. This can be proven by comparing both of their stories to the events of the movement at the time and seeing if this is the case to prove this as being the case. In this case, they were both born in the United States during the mid-1800s, which meant that they lived through the women’s rights movement, and that impacted their writings and views, as well as the era of naturalism and realism of the time.

The women’s rights movement (1848-1917) is an event that helped women fight for true equality in an age that did not support them as we do today. This allowed women who felt tied and held back to speak their minds and prove that they are more than what society thought. Women were put down and many of their rights were taken away, and no one was ready to speak up until this major movement in society. Kate and Charlotte used their platform and words to write books about their life and experiences, and they spoke to thousands of people about the sad reality of women’s life. Literature during this time was known as ‘naturalism and realism’, which mainly focused on sharing the true story and events as to how they truly were. Realism is the type of literature that stayed true with no bias and just facts on how things occurred. “Realism sets itself at work to consider characters and events which are the most ordinary and uninteresting, in order to extract from these their full value and true meaning” (Tadjibayev et al., 146). On the other hand, naturalism was used when authors wanted to share a true story with exaggeration on some points which made it not factual since some events were not true as stated. This will be seen in the following two stories as they are compared to each other and their true intentions behind them.

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The story that showed that it was heavily influenced by the women’s rights movement was ‘The Story of an Hour’ since it portrayed Louise, a married woman, who was supposedly happy in her marriage and did not have any regrets until the worst came to be. She was notified of the death of her husband, Brently, which brought her to her knees, and this was made worse by the fact that she had a weak heart and it was hard for her to bear this information by herself. This soon led her to fall ‘ill’ and look out her window with sorrow, but that soon changed when she felt relieved that she was no longer held back by her marriage and she was truly free from the shackles that held her back. Louise kept whispering the following: “Free! Body and soul free!” (Chopin, 2). Louise kept looking out the window since for her it symbolized that freedom she always wanted, as seen with this quote: “Feeling momentarily free, Louise breathes deeply and this gives her the feelings of elation and power as if she had achieved victory in widowhood” (Jassam and Jassam, 3). This relief soon ended when she was informed of his well-being, and she died of a heart attack due to the shock of knowing that she will never get the same freedom as she did when she was informed of her death. When this story is analyzed, we can see how much it was influenced by the women’s rights movement and the suffering and mindset they had about their dreams and feelings. This goes hand in hand with the realism literary period since it was about showing the truth in any way they could and Kate chose to use her books as that platform. Kate's family also had a connection to feminist ideals, which could have also influenced how she thought about women's rights, and we know this to be true since a biography of her told us how she looked up to her female family members and viewed them as role models.

When reading ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, we can see this as well, since most of this story is about how the narrator or the main character is a woman who is trapped inside the walls of her marriage and house. She is always trying to break free of this but is never able to do so since her husband, John, does not allow her to truly be herself and slowly drives her insane with the methods that he uses to treat her ‘condition’, which he calls a nervous breakdown caused by stress. This stress came from her having a baby at such a young age and she was not ready to bear that at the time, which led John to tell her to take some off time and diagnosed her with a nervous breakdown. She did not agree with this, but went along with it since John was a good doctor and a great husband in her eyes and knew that he wanted the best for her: “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression — a slight hysterical tendency — what is one to do?” (Gilman, 1). This led her to believe in everything that he diagnosed her to be true, even if she knew that deep down that was not the case. She later kept seeing someone move inside the walls, to the point that it looked like they were going to tear through the yellow wallpaper. This soon led her to become insane since she could not bear seeing women trying to hurt John and herself in their sleep. Soon she realized that she was that crazy woman in the walls and that drove her to insanity. This story reflects the amount of damage that some women have to suffer through in their marriages just to be ‘happy’ and shows the unfairness and inequality that existed in their society during the late 1800s. The women’s rights movement heavily influenced this story as well since it shows that marriage was never equal and fair until both parties had an equal say in their matters. “It is observed that these two works by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and ‘Herland’, represent the feminist rebellion of Gilman in her career as a feminist writer” (ÖZYÖN, 116). This quote also states that she had roots that connected to feminism and it was in her works such as this book.

Both of these stories show that women needed change to happen, and their stories show that. We can also see how the women’s rights movement influenced both Kate Chopin and Charlotte Perkins Gilman when writing their stories. The literary period of realism and naturalism also shows this to be true since they wrote about the events that were occurring with fictional characters. This made it to the hearts of many women and showed their support for the movement, and it had an impact on them. This is something that a lot of women were proud to stand up for, and it showed how they were proud of that.

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Essay on the Feminist Background of ‘The Story of an Hour’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. (2023, October 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminist-background-of-the-story-of-an-hour-and-the-yellow-wallpaper/
“Essay on the Feminist Background of ‘The Story of an Hour’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’.” Edubirdie, 26 Oct. 2023, edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminist-background-of-the-story-of-an-hour-and-the-yellow-wallpaper/
Essay on the Feminist Background of ‘The Story of an Hour’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminist-background-of-the-story-of-an-hour-and-the-yellow-wallpaper/> [Accessed 3 Mar. 2024].
Essay on the Feminist Background of ‘The Story of an Hour’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 26 [cited 2024 Mar 3]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/essay-on-the-feminist-background-of-the-story-of-an-hour-and-the-yellow-wallpaper/
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