What are the similarties and the differences between the short story "The Story of an Hour" and the short story "A Jury of Her Peers"?
The essential similarities and differences between the short stories "A Jury of Her Peers" are based on the themes that both stories treat, and on the personal conflict of their main characters.
The central theme of both stories is gender roles.The role of gender is extremely important to define the central conflict of both stories. In "A Jury of her Peers", the characters of Minnie Wright, Mrs. Hale, and Mrs. Peters are consistently diminished while in the presence of males. Minnie Wright's situation is an obvious case of domestic violence, both physical and psychological.
In the case of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, the women play the submissive role of "the wife" as a granted second class citizens. We know that there is an issue of suppression in the manner in which both women discuss Minnie's case in a secretive way, and allowing for the males investigating the home to make silly and condescending comments regarding Minnie's housekeeping skills.
"you women might come upon a clue to the motive"
"would the women know a clue if they did come upon it?"
Similarly, "The Story of an Hour" describes the main character as a feeble, weak, and sickly woman with a "bad heart" who is thought to be in deep depression upon the potential death of her husband. Little do they know that, as Louise Mallard requests a moment of solitude to process the information, she is actually wrapped in the biggest joy she could feel as she feels that she can finally be free. This entails that her gender grants that she has to be confined to the whims of a husband, to the expectations placed upon her by society, and to the role of wife and mother: one that cannot find herself for having to serve others.
The main difference between the two stories is the conflict that each character suffers. Minnie Foster is an abused woman who snaps and kills her husband after he performs his last act of intense cruelty (the killing of her canary). According to Mrs. Hale, the former Minnie Foster was a pretty woman who wore "ribbons" and flowers, who sang pretty at the choir, and who had an essential joy of life. After her marriage to John Wright, the now Minnie Wright changes significantly for the worse: she is erratic, nervous, unkempt, and isolated from the rest of the world. This is the typical profile of a truly battered woman. Her only escape, perhaps her only defense, was to kill her husband after snapping.
Louise Mallard admits that she has a good husband and that
she may have loved him once
Louise has no real reason to dislike her husband, nor does she wish him ill. She admits that he has allowed her to live comfortably and that he has even shown her love. Yet, marriage is not what Louise's heart wants. She merely craves personal and psychological freedom. The joy that invades her heart is that of someone who will, for the first time, taste life as it was intended to be. When she discovers that her husband is not dead, and that this feeling has to go away, she dies of what they erroneously said was "the joy that kills"
Therefore, the theme and conflicts of each story render their similarities and differences.
Both Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" and Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers" deal with the late 19th (and early 20th) century very limited role of women in American society. Women were to stay in the home and find satisfaction in caring for home, children and husband. For upper-class women (as in Chopin's story), women were also locked into societal requirements which usually entailed proper dress for certain occasions, house "visits" to people of quality, and never being unchaperoned if they left the house. These women had little "hands-on" involvement in household chores and rearing the children. Instead they would oversee a housekeeper and/or nanny. Thus, Chopin's protagonist feels trapped in her marriage and unfulfilled. Her husband's "death" frees her and for a moment she sees life's possibilities.
In Glaspell's story (based on an actual trial), Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale go with their husbands when they investigate the murder of Minnie Wright's husband. Again, we have a woman (Minnie Wright) who is locked in a loveless marriage with a brute of a husband. She is not allowed to have friends and experience life outside of serving her husband. There is no beauty or kindness in her life.
Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale (both treated trivially by their respective husbands) investigate Minnie Wright's life and in doing so, find the motive for the murder. As they dig through her daily life, they develop sympathy for Mrs. Wright recognizing her finished and unfinished work and concluding that her life must have been lonely and miserable. By examining her sewing (things only a woman would have noticed and therefore not noticed by either Sheriff Peters or Mr. Hale), the women discover the dead bird wrapped in silk. The motive for murder.
Glaspell illustrates how death (like in Chopin's story) is the only release for a woman trapped in marriage and societal obligations.