Free «The Feminism Beliefs in Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton» Essay Paper
The theme of feminism for many authors is an attempt to solve some key social problems, especially the problems of human relationships. The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin and The Other Two by Edith Wharton are good examples of the author’s view on social life and responsibilities from the position of feminism, without losing their own critical perspectives. It is important that Chopin began to solve the feministic problems, especially what woman should do in the male society, before the feminist movement became the official force in America. At the same time, Wharton was also working on the problem of gender roles, particularly on rediscovering the nature of marriage and identity. The common idea of these texts is that marriage is always an emancipated institution that obliges both men and women to certain social roles and practices, even though none of the participants is not happy.
The first text tells the story of Louise Mallard, who suddenly learns that her husband died in a train accident. This information is unexpected for her, so she starts crying, and then Louise locks herself in the room alone. Suddenly she starts to pay attention to the external world around: the singing of birds, the smell of the rain in the air, and the flow of clouds in the blue sky (Chopin). In other words, she understands that the world is beautiful without her husband, and she will be happy without being married. Louise also recognizes that she will be free and independent forever and starts crying because of this. Louise Mallard believes that all men and women exploit each other in a marriage, even though they have good intentions. At the same time, she loved her husband and sometimes was even happy, but now she feels completely different type of happiness (Chopin). Suddenly her husband, Brently Mallard, enters into her room. The appearance of Brently shocked Lousie and she died of a heart attack. Most of the people thought that she died because of joy, but in fact Louise died because of the understanding that she will never be free and independent again.
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The second story tells about Mr. Waythorn, who is happy with his new wife Alice. However, his wife did not tell him about her previous marriages, and she seems to be a frivolous and shortsighted woman. One day two previous husbands appear in her life and each of these men has personal attitude to Alice’s children and herself as well (Wharton). Mr. Waythorn worries that these men had bad influence on Alice, whom he knew on the beginning of their marriage. In fact, the appearance of these people gives a chance to shed the light on a true nature of Alice. Mr. Waythorn begins to realize that her previous men are not so bad, in contrast to Alice. For example, Mr. Haskett is a very kind and sensitive man who loves his daughters very much. He increasingly starts to believe that the true initiator of the divorce was Alice, but not Mr. Haskett, and describes her new wife with the phrase“as easy as an old shoe” that has been changed many times in a row (Wharton). In fact, this sentence has a misogynist intonation, because Mr. Waythorn cannot realize that his wife lived without him previously. In the patriarchic society a woman should belong only to a man and thus she should not to claim or recall her previous life with other men. However, there is no taboo for men in relationships with women. Finally, Mr. Waythorn does not see any threat from her previous husbands, so they sit together in the room, drinking tea and laughing with each other.
In both stories marriage represented as the emancipated structure for all women, but the authors created different interpretations. When the The Story of an Hour represents marriage as a dramatic and absurd structure, the The Other Two is a comedic version of understanding gender roles. Louise Mallard is the one and only protagonist in the first story, who dreams of not having one more marriage, but to be free and independent from any marriage in the society. For Louise marriage is kind of a social cage for any woman, who cannot be free. However, the second story represents Mr. Waythorn as the male protagonist, who is experiencing the fact that his marriage may be an illusion. In fact, the Edith Wharton’s story proves that marriage is a very flexible structure, inspite the fact that the characters divorced several times. Alice adapts to each of the men, showing that loyalty and honesty in marriage is an old stamp that everyone should to get rid of. A woman should not accept marriage as something unchanged and divine, and it can evolve: “Alice Waythorn’s ability to adapt to the different styles of her three husbands illustrates the common understanding of Darwinian notions of sexual patterns and evolutionary survival” (Werlock 505). In this case, Alice did not receive any criticism from the public opinion for her behavior. For the traditional societies divorce is considered to be an unacceptable thing, because it expresses disobedience to both a man and the society. However, Alice shows that society has changed, and can accept the woman who divorced twice tolerably.
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Both stories represent the same feministic concept of family, but with different female characters. Louise is more soft and romantic, but Alice is more flexible and far-sighted woman. Louise could not overcome her marriage, because she is afraid to be condemned by her husband and society. Nevertheless, Alice is a progressive and independent woman, already has experienced a life in two marriages. Louise has more radical approach to marriage, banning it completely, but Alice tries to change the social institutions in an ironic style. Edith Wharton realizes that any woman will be defenseless without marriage, so her character uses the maximum potential from the patriarchic society. Obviously, Other Two shows the adapted version of feminism, which uses men as a method to achieve the main feministic goal – to be an independent woman in the society of men. Finally, Alice breaks the patriarchal model of marriage, showing its absurdity and inability to cope with life’s challenges and obstacles
In conclusion, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin and The Other Two by Edith Wharton are perfect feminist illustrations of marriage as emancipated patterns for women. The characters are convinced that they cannot be happy in marriage and their husbands use them only for their social status. The first work shows a dramatic view of marriage as the permanent structure, while the second argues that marriage can be changed and divorce is not seen as something shameful. Anyway, the authors dream of a strong and independent woman who can make decisions without the approval of men. Louise starts to dream about her alternative life only after the information about her husband’s death, having an opportunity to think a little about her freedom and independence. Instead of this, Alice is surrounded by men and uses them as a method for changing marriage, proving that woman can be happy, but only after some attempts.