The Story of an Hour Questions and Answers
by Kate Chopin

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 In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin and "The Yellow Wallpaper," what factors imprison each protagonist?

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Within settings of the Victorian Age which had the femme covert laws, laws in which wives were property of their husbands and had no direct legal control over their earnings, children, or belongings. both protagonists of Chopin's and Gilman's short stories are imprisoned by their social customs.  These customs caused such repression in women that they became damaged psychologically, as well.

Upon learning that her husband has died, Chopin's Mrs. Mallard with a face has "lines [that] bespoke repression," even tries to push back the realization that she can now be free of  femme covert because of her conditioned fear.  For, it is only after she sits for a time in the privacy of her room that Mrs. Mallard is able to release her fear, saying repeatedly under her breath, "free, free, free!"

The vacant stare and the look of terror that had follwed it [this realization] went from her eyes....Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

However, when she descends the stairs and sees Mr. Mallard, her short-lived joy of freedom is killed.  For, her psychological repression has been so extreme that she dies from the recognition of its final loss.

Like Mrs. Mallard, the unnamed narrator of Gilman's story suffers under the repression of her culture. Suffering from post-partum depression, she is subjected to the treatment profferred by Dr. Weir Mitchell and confined to bed in total isolation.  The rest and solitude is meant to cure her of her melancholia; however, the artistic and imaginative patient is so severely repressed that she develops the more damaging side effect of psychosis and is destroyed mentally.

Because of the secondary cause of their social repression in the Victorian setting, Mrs. Mallard and the woman of "The Yellow Wallpaper" are then imprisoned psychologically; as a result of this even more injurious state, Louis Mallard suffers a heart attack and the woman becomes insane.

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