Explain the theme of identity and self-wood based on the three stories "The Story of an Hour," "Bliss," and "The Yellow Wallpaper".

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

All three of these stories have women who, up to the point of the story being told, had most of their self-worth and image based on other people.  It is being a wife that defines most of their roles.  Also, they find themselves, as each story progresses, becoming discontented with their old role as wife, and discover that their self-worth needs to be based on other things.

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator is a woman who is most likely suffering from post-partum depression, or from anxiety, who finds herself, at the manipulations of her husband, out in the country in a strange house and room, cloistered off from society or work.  She struggles the entire story to be the "happy, obedient wife."  In the end, she completely loses her entire identity, as she merges with the hallucinated figure in the wallpaper.  We see a woman who, because she was not allowed to be herself, to fulfill what made her happiest, went a bit mad and lost any sense of identity altogether.

In "The Story of an Hour," there is Louise Mallard, who, upon hearing the news of her husband's death, feels exhilarating freedom and bliss.  She realizes that she had been repressed, not happy being a wife, and now she was "free, free!" to live as she pleased.  Her self worth and identity had been wrapped up in her husband, and in her role as a wife; that was unfulfilling for her, and she felt the happiness of the freedom to find her own identity, free of other people.  She is excited as she begins this journey.

In "Bliss," we have Bertha, who is completely and totally happy, so she thinks, in her role as wife and friend. She feels confident in her station in life, and assured of her love for others and of being loved.  But, as she soon realizes that those assumptions about her life were completely wrong, her self worth and identity crumble around her as she learns of her husband's affair.  She has to completely re-evaluate what she had previously taken for granted; she has to start from scratch in her search for esteem, worth and identity.

I hope that those thoughts helped a bit; good luck!

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The Story of an Hour

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