Compare the characters  Louise Mallard from "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin and  Dee Johnson from "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Louise Mallard and Dee Johnson are ladies who are searching for something that is elusive for both.  Each character seems caught in a world that is unsatisfactory for her.

In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, Louise Mallard learns that her husband has been killed.  She is young, pretty and suffers from a heart affliction: literally and figuratively.  After Louise grieves, she goes to her upstairs bedroom to be alone. Suddenly, she is overtaken by a new emotion:

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under hte breath: "free, free, free!"

Louise loves her husband most of the time, and he loves her.  Yet, what she realizes is that she wants more than anything to be free to do what she wants and without anyone watching over her.  After a time, Louise and her sister walk down the stairs together.  Unexpectedly, her husband opens the front door unharmed.  Louise falls over dead of "the joy that kills."

What an example of dramatic irony!  Only, the reader knows that Louise has not succumbed to the happiness of seeing her husband alive but rather from the unhappiness of knowing that she will not be free to do what she likes.

Mrs. Johnson, in "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker, has two daughters.  They are as different as night and day physically and emotionally.  Maggie suffered terrible burns when their house burned down.  Now she is not just scarred on the outside but inside as well. 

Dee, the older sister, is everything her sister is not. Brazen, self-assured, pretty, desirable--this is Dee.  She hates her house and was glad when it burned.  Too bad about Maggie--she felt no sympathy at all. Dee wants to get as far away from her family and home as she can. It is all an embarrassment to her.

Selfishly, after graduation, she tells her mother that she will see them sometime in the future and goes off to find her own life.  Time passes, and Dee comes home for a visit.  She shows up inappropriately dressed with an odd muslim man for her companion. Both now sport muslim names.  Dee [Wangero] tells her mother:

I couldn’t bear it any longer, being named after the people who oppress me.

When Dee goes inside the house, she begins to rummage around looking for things to take with her.  Her long suffering mother has finally had enough of Dee's selfishness. When Dee wants to take two quilts which were made by grandmothers about the time of the Civil War, Mrs. Johnson refuses tells Dee that they are promised to Maggie.  Incensed, Dee tells them they do not understand that she needs these things to display showing her black heritage.  Dee and her partner leave with nothing. 

Both women were frustrated in their lives.  Louise wanted freedom and found it in death.  Dee wanted to get away from her family and her life; she found that as well.  Neither got what they really wanted.


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