Theme of Gender in «The Story of an Hour» by Kate Chopin and «A Room of One’s Own» by Virginia Woolf

Introduction

In the novels, The Story of an Hour and A Room of One’s Own, the authors Kate Chopin and Virginia Woolf respectively explore the theme of gender. The protagonist in The Story of an Hour, Louise, lives in fear due to oppression from her husband.

On the other hand, the unknown narrator; the main character in the novel A Room of One’s Own addresses and criticizes the issue of gender inequality in her society. Although the main characters are fighting for women rights in the society, the rules and regulations put in place by men prevent women from reaching their goals or exploring their talents.

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In the book, Story of an Hour, men control the behavior of women in the society. Therefore, every woman lives and adheres to the rules set by chauvinistic men. Louise, the protagonist is submissive and respects her husband despite his oppressive nature.

She does not own any property or money; an aspect that makes her fully dependent on Mallard. Additionally, the laws forbid her from openly expressing her emotions regardless of the situation she is undergoing.

Due to her unhappiness in marriage, she ends up getting a heart disease that weakens her immune system. On one occasion, Louise receives the bad news that her husband has died; interestingly, Louise mourns her husband as the society expects of her; Chopin posits, “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” (Para. 3).

However, deep within, Louise wants freedom; actually she murmurs the words, ‘Free! Free! Free! Unfortunately, when her husband reappears she collapses and dies on the spot for her freedom is only but a wish. Louise’s joy, prayer, and subsequent death are a revelation of the freedom women hope to achieve in the society. Sadly, the presence of men becomes an obstacle as they gag this freedom.

On the other hand, in the story A Room of One’s Own, the society’s holds that, women should not own power or money. Additionally, women lack freedom, education, and respect from the men in the society. For instance, only men explore writing in the society because they have support and access to money.

Due to oppression of the girl child, her talents go unnoticed whereas the boy child fully explores his endowments. Unfortunately, fathers (men) use their daughters to acquire wealth in form of dowries. Women are inferior and society promotes their weakness, a fact that the narrator criticizes. The narrator pities women when she says “I look at the shouldering, their way along the pavement- is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle.

It calls for gigantic courage and strength” (Woolf 35). Surprisingly, men succeed in oppressing women as the narrator alludes to a story during her speech. She gives an example of twins, a boy and a girl, however only the boy achieves education while the girl (Judith) stays at home. Furthermore, Judith’s father wants to marry her off in order to get wealth, a fact that pushes her to commit suicide ending her life prematurely.

In summary, the authors of the two stories explore the theme of gender whereby women in the society face discrimination, which leads to tragic end in their lives. In Chopin’s story, Louise tolerates all manner of abuse from her husband; she even mourns his supposed death only to collapse at his reappearance a clear indication that inwardly she loathed his behavior but society could not listen to her cries.

In Woolf’s book, women cannot own property courtesy of tyrannical rules set by chauvinistic men. Girl child has no rights; not even the basic right to education. Generally, women are only to be seen, not heard. Therefore, the two authors touch on gender inequality albeit from different perspectives.

Works cited

Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour (1984).” N.d. Web. 17 April 2011.

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1989.

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