The short stories "The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and "The Story of an Hour", by Kate Chopin, share common themes that are related specifically to the role of women within their families, and within society as a whole. This is mainly the reason why the two female main characters of each story share a number of character traits that, together, send out one, same, universal message: females are grossly misunderstood by society.
In "The Yellow Wallpaper" we find in the unnamed female narrator a woman who has just had a child and shows evidence of post partum blues. Rather than being tendered to supported, the men of her family opt to bestow a "rest cure" upon the woman that has done more harm than good. All this, merely because the men feel that it is their responsibility to direct and manage the activities, opinions, wants, and needs of the females. As a result, the woman begins to spiral down into a deeper depression and ultimately going into what we could classify in modern times as a psychotic episode. Hence, the main traits of this main character are that she is:
- socially disenfranchised - as a woman she cannot take care of herself.
- misunderstood both biologically and emotionally
- trapped in a situation that she cannot change
- trying to find a way to solve her issue, to no avail
Similarly, the main character of "The Story of an Hour" is also woman with a health condition. Mrs. Louise Mallard has a "weak" heart. As a result, the main problem is how to deliver to her the news that her husband is suspected to be dead. In Louise's case we also see the disenfranchised woman who was not able to guide her own life due to the social constraints of a male-dominated society. As a result, Louise's reaction to her husband's death was shocking even to herself. She revelled in the possibility of being finally free from the idea of a marriage in which she simply was not happy. Here we find characteristics that are similar to the unnamed woman of "The Yellow Wallpaper"
- social disenfranchisement of Louise Mallard by the rules and etiquette of marriage, a male-dominated practice of courtship and networking
- misunderstanding- nobody would be able to relate to the feelings of Louise; she is simply a woman who feels misplaced in a society that would never understand her desire for personal freedom.
- she feels finally free from being in a situation that she could not change, as divorce may have not been an option for her. Yet, when she realizes that her husband is not dead, she dies; this is because she also felt trapped again in something that she could not change.
- the need to try and change her life, to no avail.
Conclusively, the two protagonists share the traits that come as a consequence of not being understood by a society where male wants and needs precede those of females. These traits show the sadness and the desperation that many women must have felt during times in society where they were simply meant to be seen, and not heard.