What are some differences between "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Story of an Hour"?

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The theme in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is repression, and the theme in "The Story of an Hour" is repressed feelings.

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"The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin are both feminist short stories written at the end of the 19th century.

The stories are similar in their themes of male dominance and female subjugation, but they contain key differences in their reaction. Gilman's unnamed narrator is confined by her doctor husband after she gives birth and suffers from postpartum depression; her husband is genuinely trying to help her condition, and only his cultural blindness to her emotional needs prevents him from recognizing her true problems. Chopin's protagonist is not overtly suffering in her life, but realizes on the news of her husband's death that she has been confined in body and soul because of her marriage; his death means freedom, even if she is genuinely sorrowful.

The two women's final fates are also significant in their differences. Gilman's narrator escapes into the fantasy of her own mind, and while she will certainly be confined in a sanitarium, she is free from the pressure of her husband's well-meaning concern. Chopin's protagonist, meanwhile, suffers from a heart-attack and dies on learning that her husband is in fact alive; perhaps unconsciously she believes that death is her only escape from a stifling marriage, since her joy at freedom has been quashed.

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What are some key similarities among the short stories "The Yellow Wallpaper," "The Story of an Hour," and "Hills like White Elephants"?

Additional similarities, aside from the awesome previous answer, involve 2 themes that are entirely related to womanhood and the way females are perceived: a) women as dependents of males and, b) woman issues as signs of weakness.

Women as dependents of males.

All three females in the three stories are seen as inferior compared to their male partners, and they are also perceived to be entirely dependent on them.

In "A Doll's House," Nora is seen by her husband as a "squirrel," a "little spendthrift" and a "lark," denoting that he perceives her to be a "doll," or a "play thing;" she is objectified. She is expected to tend to her family, entertain her husband, and be obedient. Even her friend, Christine Linde, hints at the charade that Nora is conducting when she "acts" in front of her husband as a weak and clueless woman. All of this is done because of the expectation that women are to depend on males.

In "The Story of an Hour," everyone assumes that Mrs. Mallard will suffer extremely as a result of the death of her husband. Her heart condition makes them think that she is "weak" and that the need for her husband will prove to be too much for her. Little do they know that she is ecstatic to be free from the trappings of married life. She is so happy that, when it is discovered that Mr. Mallard is alive after all, she drops dead. To add insult to the injury, people erroneously assumed that it was joy that killed her: "joy that kills."

In "Hills Like White Elephants" Jig is pregnant and dependent on the American man who is accompanying her on a trip around Spain. A decision has to be made about her getting an abortion. The decision was ultimately hers but motivated completely by the man's thoughts about the issue:

[American man] We'll be fine afterwards, just like we were before.

What makes you think so?

That's [the pregnancy] the only thing that bothers us. Is the only thing that makes us unhappy.

Again, the choice of the woman depends mainly on the decisions of the man. Her happiness would then depend on his.

Woman issues as signs of weakness

In all three stories, aspects related to womanhood are downplayed and seen as signs of weakness.

In "A Doll's House," the mere fact that Nora is a woman drives Krogstad to take advantage of her in a moment of vulnerability when she needs money desperately. He knows that Nora would committ a major social faux pas by negotiating with a man that is not her husband. Moreover, he uses her guilt and desire for saving her family as reasons to blackmail her and demand things from her.

In "Story of an Hour," we find that, astonishingly, a specific behavior is expected of Louise Mallard because of the fact that having a heart condition may be seen as a nuisance in the eyes of many; her condition could be seen as a sign of weakness.

She's unwell, with a genteel condition, which means she can still act like and be treated like a lady.

In "Hills Like White Elephants" Jig is pregnant, and this is clearly a nuisance to the American man. The pregnancy interrupts their joy, according to him. It is "the only thing that makes the upset." This is another sign of how society views the female genre as an inconvenience.

In all, women are seen as dependents and their emotions and traits are seen as signs of weakness in all three stories. That is a key element that they all have in common and it goes hand in hand with a feminist philosophy.

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What are some key similarities among the short stories "The Yellow Wallpaper," "The Story of an Hour," and "Hills like White Elephants"?

Besides the dominant commonality of the feminist theme, these three short stories do also share other aspects:

1. Characterization: In all three stories, although Jig's characterization is somewhat ambiguous, there is a focus upon what the female characters think and feel.

  • The unnamed narrator of Perkins's story has an inner reality that differs greatly from what really is because she feels compelled to trust the opinions of her husband and the doctor. Nevertheless, she does attempt to establish some self-expression: "But I must say what I feel and think in some way--it is such a relief!"  However, in her depressive state, she ls unable to rationally overcome her situation.
  • In Chopin's story Louise Mallard, upon learning of her husband's supposed death, mounts to her room and considers with relief that she will now have a life or freedom: 

She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her...'free,free, free!'

  •  Jig of Hemingway's story internalizes and senses her situation, perceiving the "operation" as a life-changing event, telling the American, "And once they take it away, you never get it back."

But, despite their internalizing, the three women, lacking fortitude, are unable to resolve their conflicts in a positive manner.

2. Setting plays a powerful role in the three stories.

  • In Gilman's story, the prison-like room with the unsymmetrical and repulsive wallpaper provides the impetus to drive the already shaky psyche of the narrator to insanity as she envisions herself as a woman trapped behind the "bars" imprinted in the wallpaper.
  • The foreign setting of Hemingway's story where the couple are really nowhere is certainly significant.  When the American goes around to gather the luggage, he disappears from Jig and "he looked up the tracks but could not see the train."
  • In Chopin's story, the staircase, her closed bedroom door and the open window parallel the internal feelings of Mrs. Mallard.

3. Symbolism is very significant in these stories.

  • The yellow wallpaper and all that seems to occur with it in the narrator's mind symbolize the conflicts of the narrator.
  • The hills that appear "like white elephants" are pregnant (pun intended) with meaning as a white elephant is something that a person cannot sell or be rid of as well as being symbolic of Jig's pregnancy.  In addition, the barren land surrounding them and the train tracks are symbolic of the rift in feeling and the psychological divide between Jig and the American.
  • The staircase is the path upward to the freedom of the open window where the sky is blue, birds sing, and hope abounds for Louise Mallard. She stands at the top of the staircase like "Victory" as she prepares to descend and begin her new life.
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Are there similarities between the short stories "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Story of an Hour"?

"The Yellow Wallpaper" is an 1892 short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman about a woman's postpartum depression and her response to her husband's ministrations.

"The Story of an Hour" is an 1894 short story by Kate Chopin about a woman who discovers that her husband has died, and her reaction to that news and the later news that he is alive after all.

The most significant similarity between the stories is the subjugation of woman to man. Both female protagonists are dominated by their husbands, although in different ways: Gilman's narrator is suffering from depression, and her husband, a doctor, is convinced that she needs to be isolated for her health; Chopin's protagonist is simply overwhelmed by her husband, who is unaware.

In both stories, the notion of freedom from the marriage is a greatly freeing concept for the women, who have never considered that they have options other than passive acceptance. In both stories, the protagonists deal with dominance in ways that leave them ultimately free; Gilman's narrator goes insane in the face of captivity, freeing her in her mind, while Chopin's protagonist dies upon learning that her husband is in fact alive, freeing her from his influence. Both women feel that they have no other recourse, and they are informed by the norms of the time as well as by their own doubts.

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Can you compare the settings of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Story of an Hour"?

To compare means to explore similarities; to contrast means to explore differences. I suspect that you may be looking to do either/or, and to contrast the two settings would be simpler than to compare. I will, however, take you at your word and try to compare the two settings. Even if you did mean to write "compare or contrast" you'll still have your answer.

To compare the two settings, however, one needs to use the full definition of the word, "setting." Setting is more than the physical place of a story. Admittedly, the physical locations of the two stories couldn't be more different: an average middle class home and a mental hospital. But setting also includes historical time and social milieu or social environment. One of the stories was published in 1892 and the other 1894. This doesn't mean that the stories are set in the same time period, but the authors are at least partially a product of the same time period.

Another way to think about setting is to look at what characters know--this, too, is included in the setting of a work. If we concentrate on the social environment and what the characters know, the settings of these two stories are indeed similar.

Both settings feature a world dominated by men--not dictator-like domination, but domination never the less. The women are expected to be subservient to men. The men "call the shots," if you will. The women are not allowed to be creative or to think for themselves. In "Story," when Mrs. Mallard repeats under her breath, "free, free, free!" she is referring to mental freedom, the ability to make decisions and think for herself, and the ability just to do what she wants. In "Wallpaper," the narrator is forbidden to "work" and writes only "in spite of them (her husband and brother, both physicians)." In the end, her creative mind will not be caged and she incorporates herself into the wallpaper.

What cements this male dominated environment as part of the setting is that female subservience is not only accepted but expected by all characters in the stories except for Mrs. Mallard and her counterpart.

Note that the men are entirely normal. They are not abusive or cruel. Mrs. Mallard is unhappy with a normal, accepted relationship, with the way husband and wife are supposed to live together in the America of her day. Note, too, that in "Wallpaper," the husband (and brother) think they are doing what's best for the narrator. The men are products of society. And, in these cases, the society is that of the authors: patriarchal America in the late 1800's.  That is the setting, too.

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Can you compare the settings of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Story of an Hour"?

In both "They Yellow Wallpaper," and "The Story of an Hour," women seemed to be trapped by their surroundings. In, "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard finds out that her husband has been killed, and has an emotional revelation while she is alone in her room. She begins to feel free and begins to look forward to living life only for herself, not for her husband. She undergoes a complete mental transformation while in her room, and it is only once she leaves, and finds out that her husband in not actually dead, that she dies of "the joy that kills." In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the narrator begins on an optimistic note, she seems impressed by her surroundings and excited for her summer vacation. She eventually discolses small bits of inforation, her past mental illness, the bars on the windows, that make the room seem like less of a vacation. Similar to "The Story of an Hour," "The Yellow Wallpaper," takes place almost entirely in this one room, in which the narrator underoes a mental transformation. And while the room had a freeing effect on Mrs. Mallard, the narrator in "The Yellow Wallpaper," becomes increaseingly maddened by her inability to do anything other than 'rest' in the room, while secretly writing in her journal. 

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Can you compare the theme in "The Yellow Wallpaper" with the theme in "The Story of an Hour"?

One common theme of Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is that of female repression in the patriarchal society of the Victorian Age. For, in each narrative, the main character is a woman who is confined by the femme covert law in which the wife's property belongs to her husband, and she is subservient to him, as well.  Moreover, in each story this inflexible position in their confined social realm makes the female characters prisoners of their domestic sphere. As such, they suffer from what is called "a nervous condition" in Gilman's story and "a heart trouble" in Chopin's.

In "The Yellow Wallpaper," the unnamed narrator expresses her frustration and repression as she points to her inability to be heard in her desire to go into the "delicious garden."  Furthermore, she hates the room her husband has chosen for her rest after childbirth, but when she objects, "John would not hear of it." In Chopin's story, on the other hand, the repression in Mrs. Mallard's life is, at first, only subtly suggested in her suffering from "a heart trouble"; however, in her subsequent actions after having learned of her husband's accidental death, Mrs. Mallard feels the release of the domestic restrictions placed upon her as she utters under her breath, "free, free, free!" 

Unfortunately, the freedom of Louise Mallard of "The Story of an Hour" is short-lived as her feelings of victory are crushed by the appearance of Brently Mallard in the foyer as she begins her descent from her room down the stairs. The very sight of her husband creates in Mrs. Mallard the realization that she must again return to the restrictions of the mores of her society, and the result is fatal:  Mrs. Mallard dies "of heart disease--of joy that kills"; the shock is too great for her.  Likewise, Gilman's  narrator finally "releases" the woman behind the hideous yellow wallpaper, freeing her, the alter-ego.  However, this act is the result of her hallucinations and mental illness:

I wonder if they [all those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!

I am getting angry enough to do something desperate....I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?

And, so, the narrator remains trapped; this time, however, she is trapped in her own insanity, an insanity produced from terrible restrictions put upon her artistic nature, just as Mrs. Mallard, too, has had cruel restrictions placed upon her spirit. Indeed, the matrimonial suppression of their sensitive natures has been the nemesis of both women. Clearly, it is repression which has destroyed the lives of the unnamed narrator and Mrs. Mallard.

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What are some shared character traits between the protagonists of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "Story of an Hour."

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. 

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With regard to their personal relationships, what similarities and differences are there between the two women in "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Story of an Hour"?

Both protagonists of "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "The Story of an Hour" are restricted by social customs of the Victorian Age in which they live.  More specifically, the femme covert laws have made these wives the virtual property of their husbands with no legal control over their earnings, children, or belongings. So repressed are Mrs. Mallard and the unnamed narrator of "The Yellow Wallpaper" that they are unable to conceive of life in any other perspective than that of their present situations without great constraints upon themselves.

While no details of Bentley Mallard are provided in Chopin's abbreviated narrative, it seems apparent that Louise Mallard has been greatly restricted in what she can do.  For, when she is told that her husband has been killed in a train wreck, she weeps "at once" and throws herself with "wild abandonment" in her sister's arms; then, alone, she "went away" to the privacy of her room where she waits for the realization of her release from patriarchy to strike her in her "suspension of intelligent thought."

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips...."Free, free, free!"....Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

Similarly, the narrator of Perkins's narrative, who suffers from postpartum depression, is also greatly restricted. Believing that she needs complete bed rest, her husband John agrees with Dr. Weir Mitchell's diagnosis that she must have strict bed rest with no diversions whatsoever despite the fact that she has artistic urgings to visit the garden or read.  Surreptitiously, however, she records in a journal her thoughts and conversations with John, her husband. And, unlike Mrs. Mallard's newfound freedom that results from the death of her husband, the woman of Perkins's story is still in a repressed state as she believes that she must comply with her husband,

He is very careful and loving, and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.... 

But, later, she feels that she must find freedom by releasing what she perceives as a woman behind the bars of the hideous yellow wallpaper. She writes,

This paper looks to me as if it knew what a vicious influence it had!....I know John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in some way--it is such a relief!

She tries to talk with her husband about what she imagines, but he  dismisses her ideas. Consequently, the narrator develops a psychosis, repulsed by the color of the paper and tormented by the image of a trapped woman. Finally, she feels compelled to free this woman, an alter-ego of herself. This act condemns her further to isolation and more treatment, a virtual death. Likewise, Louise Mallard, who has at last obtained freedom and happiness, opens her bedroom door only to discover that Bentley Mallard, her husband, has returned home unscathed. This "joy that kills" is the death of Mrs. Mallard, who suffers a fatal heart attack. Thus, both women die: Mrs. Mallard physically dies, and the narrator suffers the death of her artistic spirit, both victims of a repressive society.

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