What are some differences between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Story of an Hour?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin are both feminist short stories written at the end of the 19th century.

The stories are similar in their themes of male dominance and female subjugation, but they contain key differences in their reaction. Gilman's unnamed narrator is confined by her doctor husband after she gives birth and suffers from postpartum depression; her husband is genuinely trying to help her condition, and only his cultural blindness to her emotional needs prevents him from recognizing her true problems. Chopin's protagonist is not overtly suffering in her life, but realizes on the news of her husband's death that she has been confined in body and soul because of her marriage; his death means freedom, even if she is genuinely sorrowful.

The two women's final fates are also significant in their differences. Gilman's narrator escapes into the fantasy of her own mind, and while she will certainly be confined in a sanitarium, she is free from the pressure of her husband's well-meaning concern. Chopin's protagonist, meanwhile, suffers from a heart-attack and dies on learning that her husband is in fact alive; perhaps unconsciously she believes that death is her only escape from a stifling marriage, since her joy at freedom has been quashed.


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