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Compare and Contrast Women in The Yellow Wallpaper and Story of an Hour

Compare and Contrast Women Characters in The Yellow Wallpaper and Story of an Hour

Women have traditionally been known as the less dominant sex. Through history women have fought for equal rights and freedom. They have been stereotyped as being housewives, and bearers and nurturers of the children. Only recently with the push of the Equal Rights Amendment have women had a strong hold on the workplace alongside men. Many interesting characters in literature are conceived from the tension women have faced with men. This tension is derived from men; society, in general; and within a woman herself. Two interesting short stories, “The Yellow Wall-paper and “The Story of an Hour, “ focus on a woman’s plight near the turn of the 19th century. This era is especially interesting because it is a time in modern society when women were still treated as second class citizens. The two main characters in these stories show similarities, but they are also remarkably different in the ways they deal with their problems and life in general. These two characters will be examined to note the commonalities and differences. Although the two characters are similar in some ways, it will be shown that the woman in the “The Story of an Hour” is a stronger character based on the two important criteria of rationality and freedom.

In “The Yellow Wall-paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the unnamed female protagonist is going through a rough time in her life. (For now on, this paper will refer to this unnamed character as the “the narrator in ‘Wall-paper,’” short for “The Yellow Wall-paper. The narrator is confined to room to a room with strange wall-paper. This odd wall-paper seems to symbolize the complexity and confusion in her life. In “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard must also deal with conflict as she must deal with the death of her spouse. At first there is grief, but then there is the recognition that she will be free. The institute of marriage ties the two heroines of these two short stories together. Like typical young women of the late 19th century, they were married, and during the course of their lives, they were expected to stay married. Unlike today where divorce is commonplace, marriage was a very holy bond and divorce was taboo. This tight bond of marriage caused tension in these two characters.

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye – Pecola’s Mother is to Blame

Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye – Pecola’s Mother is to Blame

A black child is born and twelve years later that same child asks, “How do you get someone to love you?” The answer can’t be found in Mrs. MacTeer’s songs or in the Maginot Line’s description of eating fish together, and even Claudia doesn’t know because that question had never entered her mind. If Claudia had thought about it, she would have been able to explain to Pecola that although she didn’t know exactly how you made someone love you that somehow she knew that she was loved. That love was expressed on those cold autumn nights when Claudia was sick and loving hands would gently touch her forehead and readjust her quilt. Those were the same loving hands that told Claudia that they did not want her to die, and those were the loving hands of her mother, Mrs. MacTeer. Unfortunately, Pecola had no loving hands to comfort her.

In America, in the 1940’s, white supremacy reigned and the values of the white dominant group were internalized by the black community in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. These images were reinforced in children’s literature, on billboards and even on the giant theater screens. Although the effects of this propaganda rippled throughout the black community, its most devastating consequences were inflicted by Pauline Williams. Perhaps it was because she had always been a dreamer and she had to fantasize in order to escape her daily grind that the silver screen was able to captivate her. Once her education was complete, and she had been indoctrinated by the standards of this medium, she could never look at the world the same way again. Everything was now assigned a category; there was good and evil, white and black, beauty and ugliness, a…

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…, she became Mrs. Breedlove in name only. She did not breed love; instead she procreated shame, guilt, and ugliness. Although it is true that Cholly’s behavior was ugly, and he was dangerously free to gorge his own appetite, I believe that it was Pauline who forced the family to wear their ugliness. Pauline cultivated her child, Pecola, with ridicule and shame, and so she ripened, and felt unworthy. Pauline, more than anyone else, knew Cholly’s character, yet she refused to believe, and protect her child from his lustful advances. As a consequence, Pecola turned to Soaphead Church for her protection, and his path led her into insanity. However, Soaphead Church was just her guide, Pecola’s road to madness had already been paved the day she was born, by her mother!

Works Cited:

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. Afterward by Toni Morrison. New York: Penguin, 1994.

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