Literary texts reflect the common beliefs and thoughts prevalent in the society. They are a mirror that acquaints the society with its prejudices, obsessions, its passions, its strengths and its weaknesses. Literature and literary texts are used by authors to help reform society and advise people on what they ought to change to flourish as a whole.
The two texts that are being compared for this project are 'The Story of an hour' and 'The Necklace.' Both short stories have women at their center and they both show a side of marriage opposite to the fairy tale image of perfect marital bliss. The two female characters are similar yet not so similar. In their flaws, their strengths and their passions they reflect the general female population of not just the era but of all time. So it can be said that the stories are the authors comment on marriage from the perspective of women.
In 'The Story of an hour' the author tells the story of a married couple who are apparently leading a blissful life. One day the wife Mrs. Louise Mallard receives the news that her husband has expired in a train accident. She is shocked and shuts herself up in her room. There she reveals her true feelings which are not of sadness or despair. Instead she is feeling relief and a profound sense of freedom. She acknowledges that her husband Brently was a gentle, loving man but marriage for her was still and oppressive affair. She still felt trapped and enslaved and with her husband's death she was freed of these bonds and was free to do with her life as she pleased. Sometime later her sister calls her out saying she would get sick if she stays shut up in the room. When she enters her living room her husband's friend and the messenger who brought the news is also there. Suddenly the door opens and it is revealed that Brently had never been in the train and was alive. Louise faints and when the doctor is called he pronounces her dead. The doctor explains that she died of a heart attack and probably due to extreme joy (Spark notes 2012).
'The Necklace' by Guy de Maupassant is a story of yet another married couple, the Loisels. They are a lower middle class couple with the husband an employee of the Ministry of Education and Mathilde Loisel, a house wife. The husband is a simple, loving man who is satisfied with life while the wife is always complaining that they are poor and she does not have all that she should. The husband brings home an invitation to a Ministry event but the wife starts crying and complains that she doesn't have anything fitting to wear for the occasion and asks him to return them. The husband however promises to buy her a dress and despite his shock at the price gets her a 400 franc dress for the party. Then she claims she doesn't have any jewels and the husband suggests borrowing then from her rich friend Madame Forestier. She agrees and goes to her, she offers her all her jewels and Mathilde selects a diamond necklace. She enjoys the party immensely and looks positively radiant. But when they get home she realizes that the necklace is missing. They panic and her husband goes out to retrace their steps to find it. A few days later the husband asks a jeweler the cost of the necklace he finds in a shop. The couple then spends ten years filling in the cost of the diamond necklace, they sell their house move into a smaller one and the husband takes on two jobs. Mathilde loses her beauty due to the stress of the time and one day when she meets Madame Forestier accidently, the later fails to recognize her. When she reveals the cause of the change, Madame is surprised and tells her that her original necklace was a fake and worth nothing (Spark notes 2012).
Women are rarely satisfied with what they have in life and always desire for more and better. Marriage for the authors is a cage that brings restrictions and enslaves women in circumstances and bonds that are less than pleasant and satisfactory for the ladies. These conditions often fall short of the women's expectations and hopes for life. Their loss of control and other conditions their numerous expectations and fantasies leads to them being perpetually unhappy and discontent.
Both of our characters are not satisfies with their married life and would gladly have done without it. They are ladies who had great expectations and hopes from life. Mathilde wanted wealth and prosperity, loads of jewels and all the ornaments a woman desires. She wanted to live a life of luxury and remain beautiful forever.
On the other hand Louise had hoped that even after marriage she would have control of her life and would be able to lead it as she wished.
Both were disappointed when their dreams and hopes were shattered after marriage and thus they stayed discontent with life. Louise was more content than her counterpart and was more grateful. Mathilde was very ungrateful and did not appreciate anything her husband did for her (Spark notes 2012).
Both of the texts are short stories are located in the nineteenth century which was characterized by lack of freedom for women. It was a time when women were expected to submit to the will of a man, either her husband or her father, and marriage was an institution meant to trap women (Toth 1999).
One difference between the two is that Chopin takes real life characters and uses them in her stories to advocate the liberation of her female protagonists (Toth 1999). While Maupassant uses the same 19th century to explain how people fall victim to their own base desires. He unlike Chopin does not think that ladies are oppressed by men but he actually feels that whoever suffers, suffers from their own misdeeds (Columbia Encyclopedia 2012). Yes in his story marriage has been a less than happy change for the Mathilde as it has not helped her realize her dreams of wealth and prosperity. He is of the opinion that her discontent with marriage is not due to her circumstances but her lofty hopes and dreams and her greed for money. A grateful woman would have been happy with what she had and then she might not have suffered the way Mathilde did and her husband did more than her.
Chopin herself had experienced life with a dominant and oppressive figure, her father, and so she knew what it felt like to be under someone else's control. A lot of her work is auto biographical and most of her characters belonged to her life in reality. In the story the character of Louise Mallard is similar to her mother Eliza O'Flaherty who was married and given over to the desire of an influential man. Her marriage was 'submission' to her husband's 'will' and a 'trap' that made her unhappy. The relief Louise feels is probably the sense of liberation she felt at her father's death because she would live life as she wished to lead. But Louise's joy is short lived and a fantasy where as Kate's liberation, infact her mother's liberation, was more long lasting and permanent.
Chopin is an avid critic of marriage as an institute that ensnares 'unwary young women'. She also criticizes the male population for their lack of compassion and understanding towards women. As in the 'Story of an hour' Louise professes that her husband is gentle but she also claims that he uses his gentleness to force his will, his desires, his wishes upon her. Although she loves him but she is tired of this coercion and wants to be free of it (Toth 1999).
Maupassant also uses the gestures, manners and appearance of people around him and used them in his work. His stories are neither a criticism of men nor the criticism of marriage it is a portrait of the vile desires of people and society in general. Unlike Chopin, he does not use real life characters and life stories to portray his own feelings and thoughts. Also unlike Chopin he just tells a story and does not offer his own opinion or a message for the reader. He leaves the task of deriving the lessons to his readers. He shows in his work that 'happiness is seldom attained; momentarily glimpsed, it disappears and its loss is a source of perpetual regret.' (Smith 1947). As in the case of Mathilde, she glimpses joy when she goes to the party wearing a 400 franc dress and a diamond necklace. But that joy is temporary and vanishes as soon as her husband puts her old and worn wrap around her shoulders.
Although he does agree with Chopin that marriage is a major cause of unhappiness. He also felt…