Feminist criticism is the way through which literature has been used to reinforce or undermine the role played by women in the society. This includes the role of women in social, political and economical activities of the society. In most societies of the world, women and the role that they play in the society has always been undermined. Their contribution and impacts on the societies have always been neglected and as such, women have not been viewed as important figures of the society.
As a result, their rights, opinions, choice and ideologies have always not been taken seriously. Due to this, women have started to use literature as a means of expressing their grievances, desires and needs. Through it, they have been able to state clearly their role and importance in the society. The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman are examples of stories that have been used to show feminist criticism. These stories are discussed in this paper.
The story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
The Story of an Hour was written by Kate Chopin in 1894. The protagonist in this story is a woman called Mrs. Louise Mallard who has a heart problem. On learning the news about her husband`s death, her sister Josephine and her husband`s friend Richard are having a hard time in coming up with a way which they will break down the sad news to Mrs. Mallard. This is because she has a heart problem hence if the message is not passed in the best way possible, severe consequences might follow.
Both her sister and her husband`s friend are worried since they do not know the best means to pass this message to her because of her health condition. This is because it is not easy for anyone to hear and accept the news of the death of someone they loved, especially a spouse one has spent many years living together. That is why her sister, while breaking the news down to her, used broken sentences and veiled hints that revealed the theme of the message but not its real content.
We are told that, “It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing” (Berkove 153). Richard also had to be sure that the message about the death of his friend was true before telling it to the wife. That is why after receiving the news of his death, he had to assure himself by another telegram. Josephine and Richard at this point see Mrs. Ballard as weak both physically and emotionally thus taking this news is going to be very difficult for her.
On receiving the news, Mrs. Ballard broke down into tears immediately and went to her room to have some time alone. While in the room, she discovered that she was not sad but instead she felt as if she was free from her misery and will now be able to live the rest of her life for herself and herself alone.
In the story we are told that, “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her… She said it over and over under her breath: free, free, free!” (Berkove 154). Instead of being sad, she felt relieved and free unlike what Josephine and her sister thought. This is because she is the only one who knew the suffering she was undergoing in that marriage and that she did not always love her husband.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In this story, the protagonist, who is not named, her husband, her sister-in-law and child have moved to a summer house where she is expected to recover from a health condition that she is suffering from. Her physician had diagnosed her with post-partum depression that made her nervous all the time.
They moved into this house so that she could get solitude, peace and calmness as a remedy to her sickness. She was also not supposed to work or do anything that would affect her emotions. Although she was not for the idea, her complains were never taken seriously by either her husband or her brother, both of whom were physicians and believed that she was okay.
In this story, it is evident that the protagonist did not get a chance to air out her feeling or emotions. Due to this fact, she found it difficult to even communicate with her husband and tell her the problems that she was going through. She found it better to keep the pain and suffering that she was going through to herself since no one else could understand; not even her own husband who is supposed to support her in any issue. Due to this fact, her mental distress kept on getting worse and as time went by, she could not keep it together anymore.
The two stories that have been discussed above show the pain and suffering that women go through in the marriages that they are in. die to this fact, their joy, happiness and attitudes tend to change. At some time, their spouses turn to become as their enemies and when they are gone, they feel relieved. This was shown in the story of an hour when the protagonist learned about the alleged death of her husband. Thus, women have used literature to express their feelings and emotions that have been neglected by the society that is dominated by men
Berkove, Lawrence L. “Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour.” American Literary Realism 32.2 (2000): 152-158.