Comparing “The Story of an Hour” to Echoes of Female Oppression
“The Story of an Hour” & “Yellow Wallpaper”
While the Story of an Hour and the Yellow Wallpaper are two distinctly different stories written by two separate authors, they share many of the same themes and elements. Both works depict a woman facing oppression through marriage and society, longing for freedom and autonomy. This theme is still very relevant and is at the center of Sansa Stark’s character arc in Game of Thrones. All three women face an oppressive society and desire freedom and independence.
In all three stories’ marriage is depicted as unromantic and inherently oppressive towards women. In the Story of an Hour, Brently Mallard is not depicted as oppressive or abusive. However, her inner dialogue reveals that she didn’t feel free in her marriage and that she didn’t love her husband all that much: “And yet she had loved him sometimes. Often, she had not.” In The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane’s husband, John, is domineering and has complete control of her. He makes all of her decisions for her, big or small, which causes Jane not to have control of her own life.
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“The Story of an Hour”: Echoes of Female Confinement and Desire for Freedom
Jane doesn’t like this, but she is unable to express her feelings. “He is very careful and loving and hardly lets me stir without special direction. I have a scheduled prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.” In Game of Thrones, Sansa Stark is married twice to considerably older men. Both marriages were unromantic and oppressive, with Sansa being subjected to physical abuse and, at one point, being confined to a room in a tower by her husband. All three stories feature women who are stifled and oppressed by their husbands in some way.
Louise, Jane, and Sansa all long for freedom and independence but are unable to obtain it because of their husbands. In the Story of an Hour, after Brently Mallard dies, Louise begins to fantasize about her future days of independence, and she develops a love for life that hadn’t been there before. Her inner monologue reveals that she used to “shudder” to think that her life would be long. It is after Louise feels free that she begins to be excited about life; she starts to fantasize about living for herself. Jane is very anxious to express herself but is unable to because of the strict rules her husband has implemented. She is unable to write, but she wishes to “relieve the press of ideas” within her.
Her need for expression is so powerful that she begins writing in a secret diary, which is a relief to her. By the end of the story, her mental illness is exacerbated by her solitude, and being unable to properly express herself, she is driven to insanity. Sansa Stark is at one point confined in a locked room, unable to read, write, or talk to anybody except her husband. She is eventually able to escape with the help of a servant, but she risks her life to do so. Louise, Jane, and Sansa all desire independence and individuality but are subjected to positions of inferiority.
“The Story of an Hour”: Perceptions of Fragility in Three Heroines
Similarly, all three women are viewed as weak or fragile by the people around them. In the story of an Hour, Louise Mallard’s sister is careful to break the news to her about her husband’s death because “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble.” Her sister is very concerned about how Louise will react to the news and doesn’t even want to leave her alone. When Louise is able to get away for some alone time, her sister begins banging on the door, saying, “I beg, open the door. You will make yourself ill.” In The Yellow Wallpaper, Jane’s husband tells her friends that Jane is suffering from “temporary nervous depression, a slight hysterical tendency.”
Due to her condition, he sees her as unable to care for herself properly, and he begins to take control of all of her decisions. Sansa Stark is viewed as a naïve girl by those around her and is not taken seriously by anyone. Just like Jane, her thoughts and feelings are disregarded by everybody around her. All three women are viewed as weak and in need of assistance by those around them. This causes the people around them to be a bit overbearing.
Societal Chains in “The Story of an Hour” Era
All three women also live in societies that contribute to keeping them in oppressed positions and normalizing the subordination of women. The Story of an Hour and the Yellow Wallpaper were set and written in the late 1800s, a time when women weren’t allowed to vote yet. During this time, the options presented to women were very limited, with most women becoming wives and mothers at a young age. In the Story of an Hour, Louise Mallard feels freedom for the first time only after the death of her husband, and the feeling is so foreign to her that it genuinely scares her, and she tries to “beat it back.” In The Yellow Wallpaper, John is continuously dismissive of Jane’s thoughts and feelings, which Jane doesn’t like.
However, Jane considers it to be a normal occurrence between husband and wife. “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” Game of Thrones is set in a fictional medieval timeline, putting Sansa in a position of complete helplessness. She lives in a society that normalizes young female subordination, male dominance, and abuse against women. She is forced to marry twice against her will, and both times, she is only able to leave her marriage through a dangerous escape. Louise, Jane, and Sansa all live in societies that normalize young marriage, female submission, and unhealthy marriages.
Emotions & Imagery in “The Story of an Hour”
The Story of an Hour, The Yellow Wallpaper, and Game of Thrones all use symbolism and imagery to reflect their character’s mental state. In the Story of an Hour, after learning about her husband’s death, Louise gazes out of an open window and from the window, “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life.” This symbolizes that the death of her husband gives her freedom and that she sees her husband’s death as a new beginning for her.
In The Yellow Wallpaper, the house and the wallpaper are symbolic of Jane’s mental state. The house itself is in an isolated location, and there are many locks. “The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.” Jane herself is isolated from everyone else mentally and eventually physically.
“The Story of an Hour”: Symbolic Confinements and Female Entrapment
The windows of her room have bars on them. She is trapped in her room, just like she is trapped in her marriage. The wallpaper is symbolic of an oppressive society that Jane lives in, trapping women beneath it. Jane eventually comes to feel that she is one of the women trapped by the wallpaper. Symbolically, Jane is trapped by the society she lives in, subjugated to a life that she has no control over.
Sansa Stark’s confinement in a room is symbolic of the confinement she feels in her marriage. As soon as their wedding night is over, Sansa’s husband, Ramsey, confines her to a room and only visits her at night. The room she is confined in is dimly lit by only one window, locked from the outside, and has only a bed and a table with one chair. The dreary, lonely room reflects the way she feels in her marriage and about her husband. All three stories use strong symbolism and imagery to dive deeper into the minds of their characters.
From “The Story of an Hour” to Today’s Struggle
At first glance, it would seem that Louise Mallard, Jane, and Sansa Stark would have nothing similar about them. While all three of these characters are vastly different, written in separate years, by separate people, their storylines share a common theme: women being oppressed, specifically by their husbands, but longing for more. All three women face oppression, living in an extremely patriarchal society. Though much has changed since the late 1800s and medieval times, gender equality and the treatment of women remain topics that are still important and relevant.
- Chopin, K. (1894). The Story of an Hour. Vogue.
- Gilman, C.P. (1892). The Yellow Wallpaper. The New England Magazine.
- Martin, G.R.R. (1996-2011). A Song of Ice and Fire (Series). Bantam Books.
- Benioff, D., & Weiss, D.B. (2011-2019). Game of Thrones [TV series]. HBO.
- Toth, E. (1999). Unveiling Kate Chopin. University Press of Mississippi.