757). Chopin (2002) writes: "There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature" (p. 757). Louise is discovering that she will have say over what she does and there will be no one who, even unwittingly, is able to get her to do something that she has not decided to do herself. Chopin (2002) continues: "A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination" (p. 757). Here Chopin (2002) seems to be saying that whether or not a man does exerts his will over a woman in an abusive or non-abusive way makes no matter -- it is still controlling someone else. This is where Louise becomes fully aware of how she has been locked inside very strict gender roles for all of her life with her husband. Though, like Mathilde and her night at the ball, Louise's freedom and happiness is short-lived. Shortly after Louise's illumination, a key is heard in the front door: It is Brently Mallard, Louise's husband -- unaware that there had even been an accident. It is her husband's return that kills Louise. The doctors say she died of "heart disease -- of joy that kills" (2002, p. 758).
Both Mathilde and Louise share in the fact that they both endure ironic outcomes, outcomes that seem to ironic yet at the same time fateful in that there is the sense that when it comes to breaking free of their gender roles they do not stand a chance. Mathilde can pretend for a night, but it is her foolishness and her unreasonable belief that she could rise above reality that sends her plummeting further down into the despair and the suffering that she endures in her working class life. Unfortunately for Louise, she is not even aware that there is something else out there for her until she is given the news of her husband's death. In this one hour of believing that he is dead, it is then that she becomes enlightened and strongly aware of all the things that she could do and have outside of him. She becomes aware of his oppression -- though he is not a bad man or an abusive man. She becomes aware of the fact that a man does not have to be cruel in order to keep his wife down and from living a life that is her own. It is the realization of what she has missed all her life with him and the idea that she will never have it once he returns home that kills her.
Both Louise and Mathilde are women who are defined by the roles that they hold in society. There is the general idea that the wealthier a woman was the less she was defined by a social role. Mathilde -- before going to the ball -- was a woman who did not have to do common jobs. She did have servants. But she wanted what the women at the ball had -- a life of leisure and being cared for and adored. It was not until after the ball that Mathilde had to resort to doing mundane and menial jobs in order to pay off the debt of the necklace. Mathilde and her husband were forced to fire the servants and thus all of the household duties fell into Mathilde's hands -- literally. She was forced to scrub pans and floors, which aged her physically. There is the belief then that Mathilde would have been able to keep her beauty much longer is she had not been forced to physically work so hard. In general, this is still the thinking today. Women who work as house cleaners or in other so-called "menial" jobs are seen as being lesser than in society than women whose husbands have a lot of money and whose only responsibilities are to charity work. These wealthier women will even have nannies that take care of their children and so they are less defined by the stereotypical "woman as mother and nurturer" role as well.
It seems from the beginning of "The Story of an Hour" that Louise is viewed as being a weak woman -- especially because of her heart condition -- though Chopin makes it rather obvious that it is more of an emotional heartache than physical pain. Her sister who breaks the news of her husband's death coddles Louise and it immediately becomes clear that the people in Louise's life do not believe that Louise can handle anything. (They would never think that Louise was merely unhappy in her marriage!) Today there is the same idea that women are the weaker sex and that they need men to take care of them. During the hour that Louise believes she is free, however, the reader starts to see a different Louise -- one with excitement who is filled with a sense of liberation. Thus this change in Louise begs the question: Is it her husband who keeps her in this weakened position -- almost as if she is an invalid? If she weren't being coddled or taken care of in this sort of humiliating way, would Louise be a stronger woman both mentally and physically?
Both Louise and Mathilde are stuck inside of gender roles that are still commonly seen in today's society despite the fact that women's liberation has occurred. Though society has come a long way, there are still many women are defined by their roles as mothers or as wives or as homemakers. These women are often thought of as less important than women who go to work outside of the house and certainly as less than men, in general. Even for those women who do work outside the home, in general, their societal roles still tell them that they need to tend to the children, their husbands and their homes. There is not any aspect of the woman's life that is supposed to be lacking. They are supposed to be successful on the job. They are supposed to be devoted and caring parents. They are supposed to be homemakers who have dinner on the table every night at eight o'clock and an immaculate house for her husband to come home to. For many women, perhaps they don't see that these are impossible standards to live up to. They just keep going until they can't anymore or until they are given a taste of something different -- like Louise. Louise never thought about how her life was oppressed until she had a little taste of personal freedom. It was then that she discovered that everything that she had been doing and believing in before was erroneous. It was not who she was as a person and this is what killed her. She realized that there was another life out there for her -- and it was so close! -- but that she could not have it. Cunningham (2004) notes that the readers don't even learn Louise's first name until after Louise accepts her new consciousness of freedom; before this, Louise is referred to as Mrs. Mallard solely. This also shows that Louise was a possession of Mr. Mallard's until he was dead (or so she thought). It is in his death that Louise becomes a whole and unique person distinct from her husband.
Marriage in both stories is a hot topic. Both Maupassant's (2012) story and Chopin's (2002) story depict women who are restricted or limited within their marriages. Both marriages also leave the women in their very restricted roles. For Mathilde, she is stuck in a lifestyle that she does not want because she is married. Though her husband is not cruel either, Mathilde must ask him for things and she is resentful when he is unable to give them to her. Louise, likewise, is stuck in a marriage that is not satisfying. Both women are defined by societal roles regarding gender that are still alive and well today. Many women today stay in loveless or unsatisfying marriages because they do not want to upset the children or they don't know how they would financially survive. Women make sacrifices because they are still oppressed in a society that believes that men are the more powerful and more important sex. While, of course, there are many husbands who do help with children and the home, the duties of taking care of children and taking care of the house by-and-large fall into the laps of women still in this society, which reveals that today's modern woman is not that far away from the character that Chopin wrote about in…