In her book, The Faces of Eve, Judith Fryer writes, “In the last year of the nineteenth century a woman succeeded where men had failed: Kate Chopin created . . . a woman who is a person.” Chopin’s short story, “The Story of an Hour,” openly portrays the true feelings of a woman who feels trapped inside her marriage. In the period in which she lived, there were only two alternatives for her to achieve the much desired personal freedom—either she or her husband must die!
Chopin’s story was controversial from the beginning. It was rejected for publication by both Vogue and Century magazines as “a threat to family and home.” Vogue later published the story only after another of Chopin’s stories did well publicly.
“The Story of an Hour” begins with Louise Mallard being gently informed of her husband’s death in a train accident. Sister Josephine was careful not to upset Louise too greatly because of the latter’s heart trouble. Did Mrs. Mallard suffer from an actual physical ailment or an emotional, psychological trauma? I lean toward the second theory. Louise felt trapped inside her marriage—having no personal freedom—and the only way she could express this was through a physical illness.
Mrs. Mallard weeps with “sudden, wild abandonment” and then disappears to be alone. Mrs. Mallard’s sister Josephine and Mr. Mallard’s friend Richards believe she needs to be alone in her grief. She retreats to a comfortable chair in front of an open window—a place the reader is led to believe she frequently spends time in. As physical exhaustion overtakes her, Mrs. Mallard can do nothing but gaze at the scenes taking place outside the window. Strangely, the things she sees are not …
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… or her husband?
Now that Louise had tasted freedom, she could not bear the thought of returning to her dreary life. In the split second that she realized her husband was alive and any hope she had freedom was gone, Louise’s heart decided what must be done. He was alive, therefore she must die.
Ammons, Elizabeth. Conflicting Stories: American Women Writers at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. NY: Oxford UP, 1991.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour”. Rediscoveries: American Short Stories by Women. 1832-1916. NY: Penguin, 1994.
Fields, Veni. “Release”. Ode to Friendship
Religious Revelation in Carver’s Cathedral
At first glance, one might assume Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” illustrates the awakening of an insensitive and insulated husband to the world of a blind man. However, this literal awakening does not account for the fact that the husband awakens also to a world of religious insight, of which he has also been blind. The title and story structure are the first indicators of the importance of the religious thesis. It is also revealed when one examines the language and actions of the characters in the story. Finally, Carver’s previous and subsequent writings give an overall background for the argument that “Cathedral” has a significant religious import.
The structural and technical features of the story point towards a religious epiphany. The title of the story, as well as its eventual subject, that of cathedrals, points inevitably towards divinity. Upon first approaching the story, without reading the first word of the first paragraph, one is already forced into thinking about a religious image. In addition, four of the story’s eleven pages (that amounts to one third of the tale) surround the subject of cathedrals.
Adding to the obvious structural references to cathedrals and religion, the language and character actions present further evidence of an epiphany of divine proportions. The television program which the characters watch together deals entirely with cathedrals. This spurs the first real conversation between the narrator and the blind man. This presents religion as some form of common ground, on which one could stand, even without sight. When first asked by Robert, the blind man, if he was “in any way religious,” the narrator asserts that he is not, and goes on to explain how cathedrals and religion “don’t mean any…
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… the eyes of a blind man, but also to appreciate the world through the eyes of a man of God.
Bethea, Arthur F. “Carver’s ‘Wes Hardin: From a Photograph’ and ‘A Small Good Thing.’” The Explicator. Spring 1999. 176-178.
Bethea, Arthur F. “Carver’s ‘Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?’” The Explicator. Spring 1998: 132-134.
Carver, Raymond. “Cathedral.” The Harper Anthology of Fiction. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. 1052-1062.
Nesset, Kirk. “Insularity and Self-Enlargement in Raymond Carver’s ‘Cathedral.’” Essays in Literature. March 22, 1994: 116.
Stull Williams. “Beyond Hopelessville: Another Side of Raymond Carver.” Philological Quarterly. 1985: 1-15.
Verley, Claudine. “Narration and Interiority in Raymond Carver’s ‘Where I’m Calling From.’” Journal of the Short Story in English 13. 1989: 91-102.