What were the authors of "The Story of an Hour" and "Hills Like White Elephants" arguing about womanhood?

In both "The Story of an Hour" and "Hills Like White Elephants" the authors argue that women want the freedom to make their own decisions. Mrs. Mallard is joyful as she realizes her husband's death has freed her to live for herself. Jig is angry and bitter that her boyfriend won't support her in wanting to have their baby, but instead pressures her to have an abortion.

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Both Kate Chopin, the author of "The Story of an Hour," and Ernest Hemingway, the author of "Hills Like White Elephants," are arguing that women want the freedom to make their own decisions, without having to give in to what a man wants.

In "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard is at first sad when she learns that her husband has been killed in a train accident. However, after she goes into a room to be by herself, her feelings change. She looks out the window at the beautiful spring day and realizes she is "free, free, free." As it dawns on her that she can make her own decisions, she experiences joy because:

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers.

She is so happy as she begins to plan her new life of freedom that she actually dies of a heart attack from shock when her husband reappears, the report of his death a mistake.

Likewise, Jig wants to feel free to have the baby she is carrying. However, her boyfriend, though he keeps pretending it is her decision, wants her to have an abortion. She gets increasingly angry at him, both for his dishonesty in repeating that he is fine with whatever decision she makes, and for ceaselessly bullying her to get an abortion as they wait for a train. Finally, she mirrors back to him that she will do what he wants, saying she doesn't care about herself. He says,

Well, I care about you.

She says,

Oh, yes. But I don't care about me. And I'll do it and then everything will be fine.

In other words, she says she will give in and bend to his will, but only because she doesn't care about herself. She is angry and bitter, and like Mrs. Mallard, wants the freedom to make her own choices.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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