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Attitudes to Marriage and Women in Chopin and Gilman

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Discuss the attitudes to marriage and women in pre-1900 prose. Your answer must be based on at least 2 literary works of that era. During the pre-1900 era, feminism was rising. This engendered many writers to write about the situation that women were in at that time and which therefore seemed to advocate certain feminist beliefs and attitudes. Some of the writings can even be said to be trying to make certain feminist-related changes. In this essay, I shall attempt to determine the ideas they seem to be suggesting and the feelings they try to incite. I will use Kate Chopin's The Story Of An Hour as well as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper as the basis of my exploration. One of the primary topics that the works of this era explore is the idea of marriage. They appear to be contending the notion that marriage is comparable to a cage where women are locked in and their freedom removed. The Story Of An Hour certainly supports this conclusion. No doubt, the moment Mrs. Mallard receives the news of her husband's death, she goes through a "storm of grief". Yet, the storm is short, and soon she "could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring of life" and that "there were patches of blue sky...in the west facing her window". ...read more.


For example, initially "John laughs at me [the narrator]" but at the end she herself "turned it off with a laugh" when John expresses his delight over her improvements. When she locks herself in the nursery at the very end of the story, she teases John for not being able to open the door and calls him "young man". This is also true for Chopin's work. The whole prose is basically about Mrs. Mallard finally gaining freedom. While Mr. Mallard is away killed in an accident, she is "drinking in a very elixir of life". The works, therefore, suggest a sense of regard for the woman by showing that the woman can triumph over the man and by communicating a feeling of celebration for this possibility. But there are a number of loopholes that can be found with this interpretation. Certainly, the women did in a sense triumph over their husbands, but these victories are more a result of circumstances rather than of their own doing or their own inherent strengths. Mrs. Mallad triumphs only because her husband died from a disaster, for example. In fact, they did not really triumph at all. Mrs. Mallad dies in the end, while the narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper appears more superior to her husband only because she has totally lost her mind, becoming completely cynical of the people around her. ...read more.


would be highly compromised, much less the odds of them deciding to act after considering the views. Thus the negative portrayal of women in pre-1900 feminist prose can be seen as a shrewd device to enhance the acceptability of the other more important feminist messages that they were trying to get across. This did not necessarily align with how they felt about themselves and women in general. In conclusion, writers of the pre-1900 era present a negative disposition towards marriage. While it may be more possible by instinct to assume that their works would favour a sense of regard for the woman, it can be proved otherwise from the texts themselves. This contradiction can be solved by undoing the assumption that writers hold views consistent with those suggested in the texts that they produce. But what I have gained from this discussion is a far larger and more significant insight into the works of women than what feelings they are trying to communicate and how they do - these works have proven themselves worthy of aesthetic value from the way they are crafted to suit the aims they have in mind. They certainly deserve to be considered "literature", and the only reason why they have not until recent years is because of the unreasonable bias against women that the works themselves were striving to eliminate. DMP 2007 "The Mad Woman In The Attic" - Studies Of Women In Modern Literature 1880-1930 Comparative Essay Assignment Question 2 Justin Chua (10) 4J ?? ?? ?? ?? Page 1 ...read more.

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