Contrast and compare "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin to Trifles by Susan Glaspell.

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Both Susan Glaspell's Trifles and Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" deal with women caught in unhappy marriages. Both women find escape from their marriages in their husbands' deaths. However, the nature of their marriages differs significantly.

In Trifles , John and Minnie Wright live in an isolated...

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Both Susan Glaspell's Trifles and Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" deal with women caught in unhappy marriages. Both women find escape from their marriages in their husbands' deaths. However, the nature of their marriages differs significantly.

In Trifles, John and Minnie Wright live in an isolated farmhouse far from their neighbors. The house is shabby and ill kept, and all the evidence suggests this is not "a very cheerful place." Minnie never goes to town or visits anyone, nor does she belong to any social clubs. All of her clothes are old and worn, and there does not appear to be a single pretty object in the house. Her husband, John, is described as a cold, hard man of few words. It becomes clear as the play progresses that John is cruel and controlling, denying his wife any pleasure and circumscribing her life so tightly that Minnie, who "used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir," has become dull, drab, and silent. Her neighbors barely recognize her now compared to the girl she used to be. It transpires that Minnie recently had a little canary as a pet, and that John broke its neck simply to spite her. That is the nature of the Wrights' marriage. Minnie ends the marriage by strangling John in his sleep, and expresses no remorse when the sheriff comes and arrests her. She is finally rid of her terrible husband.

In "The Story of an Hour," by contrast, Louise and Brently Mallard live a pleasant middle-class life. Louise's sister and her husband's friend are both on hand to comfort Louise when they receive news that Brently has died in an accident. She has a support network and her own bedroom, space for her to spread out, as signified by her "comfortable, roomy armchair." She is genuinely devastated to hear that Brently has died. His hands were "kind" and "tender," and his "face . . . had never looked save with love upon her." Their marriage was ostensibly a loving one, and she grieves it. But at the same time, she feels rising within her "a monstrous joy" at the prospect of being able to live on her own. Brently was a kind man, but he, like John Wright, controlled his wife. As Louise contemplates a future without him, she realises how much she has hated that control:

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

Now, however, Brently is dead, and no one will control Louise again.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

As with Minnie Wright, the death of her husband has brought Louise a freedom she never imagined.

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

For Minnie, this freedom is worth the price of prison. Her husband was a vile man who strangled her joy, so she strangled him. The county attorney reckons that without a clear motive for the murder, a jury will acquit Minnie, in which case she will be truly free.

For Louise, this freedom—her ecstasy at the thought of this freedom—is so powerful, it transforms her "unwittingly [into] a goddess of Victory." Her whole life stretches out before her, hers to do with as she wishes. Then Brently, who was not killed in an accident, or anywhere near the accident, comes through the front door. The freedom which was predicated on Brently's death is snatched from Louise, and the pain of that loss kills her instantly. If one can "will" oneself to death, Louise has. She would rather be dead than trapped in a life which she thought she had escaped.

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In addition to the points above, it is important to note that both stories discuss specifically what it feels like for a woman to be trapped in a marriage. While Minnie Wright from Trifles is much more proactive in escaping her "trap," Chopin makes it quite clear in "Story" that Louise Mallard has felt trapped for many years in her marriage but was either unwilling or unable to take action to escape.

Similarly, both works portray a natural tension between the sexes. In Trifles, the men trivialize Mrs. Hale's and Mrs. Peters' comments and abilities which causes them to completely underestimate them. John Wright minimized his wife's needs and desires and probably never suspected that she would be strong enough to present any danger to him. In "The Story of an Hour," everyone pities and caters to Louise Mallard after her husband's death, assuming that she is devastated by the loss of her provider and protector when in reality she is overcome with joy at the thought.

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The theme of the stories gears toward the oppression of women by marriage. The women are basically victims of the place in which society expects them to be as far as marital and family roles. They are stories about the  the expectations that society has bestowed upon women and how many times those roles are simply not in tandem with what women really want or need. The theme also gears towards the mercy (and lack thereof) of which these women depend in order to be considered "ok", or "normal", and even to be forgiven by society. Ultimately, the theme is one which exposes the sad reality of oppression and gender discrimination that is unique to specific times in our history.

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