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In "The Lamp at Noon," the marriage is one in which neither the husband (Paul) or his wife (Ellen) is happy. Life is drudgery, hard work, with little in the way of creature comforts, and even less hope. Set during the Depression, there is little for this couple to lift them up or bring them close. They don't communicate: they argue and compare the misery each confronts. Each is pitifully unhappy with his/her situation, and they take it out on each other. Each day brings more disappointment.
In "The Story of an Hour," the circumstances of our couple appear very differently. Louise Mallard hears the report of her husband's death and quietly retires to her room. The members of the household believe she has gone to grieve alone, when in fact, her solitary thoughts show the reader that she is finally able to face the wasted days of her life, and the lurking shadow of truth that she has been given a second chance. We learn that their marriage was seemingly a good one. Brently Mallard never showed anything but kindness toward Louise; there is the sense that he never knew she was unhappy. And though in some ways she loved him, she couldn't bear to think of living endless days with nothing to look forward to other than her empty existence.
Though married, both women live in isolation, existing unhappily as dictated by their very different circumstances. Both husbands devote themselves completely to their careers. Paul in "Lamp" is fighting to save the farm against impossible odds, while Brently (in "Hour") is busy away from home caught up in the responsibilities of his job. The distance between each of the couples creates extreme unhappiness for both women. Paul is aware of Ellen's misery; Brently is not. And although both couples are legally wed, the marriage is nothing but a binding contract.
Tragedy lies waiting for both Paul and Ellen. Paul deludes himself into believing things will improve. The harshness of Ellen's life, lack of food and any kind of comfort rob her of hope. Both will lose their struggle to survive.
However, whereas Louise sees a a life of hope with the news of her husband's death, his reappearance (the report of his death was in error) robs Louise of her dreams of the future, a future she had looked forward to, filled with days of endless possibilities. The doctors report that her weak heart caused her death, but secretly the reader knows that it was her broken heart that killed her.
In both stories, the representation of marriage reflects the circumstances of each character's existence as an extension of his/her married life. Certainly, no man is an island, and no one in either story is able to survive feeling so alone, so isolated. Marriage represents the bond between husband and wife, but in these stories, these marriages represents the destruction of the individual trying to survive the disappointment that comes with each union.
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