Comparison Contrast Literature Review

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¶ … Necklace" & "The Story of an Hour"

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For centuries women have been associated with domestic life. This association was especially persistent from the middle ages until the mid-twentieth century -- and, some could still argue that it continues even today. Most women did not have choices when it came to what they were going to do with their lives. It was pretty much a given that they would marry, bear children and take care of the house and family. Women, for the most part, were considered second-class citizens -- that is, second to the men in the society. However, just because this gender role was a societal norm does not mean that women did not have their own dreams and ambitions for their lives outside of their domestic life. These dreams and ambitions were merely stifled. Furthermore, on many occasions, women were forced to marry men whom they did not even love simply because marriage was expected of them and many took the first opportunity that came along. In Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" and Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace," this is the exact scenario that is exhibited in each. Both Louise Mallard from "The Story of an Hour" and Mathilde Loisel from "The Necklace" find themselves stuck within the strict confines of gender roles that they do not enjoy and seem to be not even aware of -- and, in fact, roles that they rebel against. Both yearn for something else and refuse to accept that they must live a life they find stifling and demoralizing. Sadly, however, both women are able to see their dreams come true -- if perhaps fleetingly -- only to have them snatched away once again by a cruel twist of fate. Both Louise and Mathilde's stories are tragic in that they are duped by extemporary circumstances that leave them reeling in the unjust aftermath. Both stories lead to the conclusion that the roles that society has cut out for them are much more difficult to escape than either one of them could ever have thought.

Literature Review on Comparison Contrast Assignment

In the first line of "The Story of an Hour," Chopin (2004) writes: "Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death" (p. 756). De Maupassant (2012) begins "The Necklace" with: "The girl was one of those pretty and charming young creatures who sometimes are born, as if by a slip of fate, into a family of clerks" (p. 1). From these first lines of each respective story, the reader immediately gets the impression that both of these women are unhappy women. One with a heart problem, which Chopin (2002) implies is not so much a physical problem, as others in the story seem to think, but rather, the trouble is "a sign of a woman who has unconsciously surrendered her heart (i.e., her identity as an individual) to the culture of paternalism" (Jamil, 2009, p. 216), and the other seemingly born into a world in which she believes she should not exist. Both women would be better off living a life other than their own.

Mathilde's anguishes over the middle-class lifestyle she has been born and married into. De Maupassant (2012) writes: "She had no gowns, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that. She felt made for that. She would have liked so much to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after" (p. 2). Mathilde suffers so greatly from her lifestyle that she cannot even visit a friend from school because her friends is so rich and in possession of everything that Mathilde desires that it makes Mathilde incredibly depressed when she must return home to her dreary life. Maupassant clever way of storytelling "allows him to lay bare his character's inner life" (Bell, 2010, p. 783) and the reader, from the beginning, has the sense that Mathilde is a woman trapped both literally and figuratively in a life that she loathes.

Louise Mallard's predicament is different from Mathilde's in that Louise never really questions her life with her husband until the day she gets a knock on the door and she is told that her husband is dead -- news that she does not question, for some reason (and just one of many inferences that are not questioned in Chopin's shorty story (Mayer, 2010, p. 95). Once learning that her husband has perished in an accident, Louise begins to think about all the freedom she has missed out on and all the freedom she will now have because he is gone. Fate has given Louise a new lease on life -- one in which she will be free to make her own decisions and be her own woman. She becomes exuberant, overcome with joy and promise when she imagines this new life that she will lead without her husband.

What is common between both Louise and Mathilde is that they both get the opportunity to have a small taste of what their hearts desire -- admiration and attention for Mathilde and freedom and individuality for Louise. Mathilde gets the opportunity to go to a ball in a gorgeous new dress and adorned with a beautiful diamond necklace -- even though it is only on loan from a friend. Mathilde dances the night away while being admired by both men and women alike for her gown, her necklace and her extraordinary beauty that seems to come out because of how happy she feels in the moment. She believes that this is the sort of life she was meant to live. Louise, likewise, has a taste of a new life that is sweeter than she ever could have imagined. When Louise's sister breaks the news of her husband's death, Louise cries in her sister's arms. She goes into a room and sits down and soon she realizes that there is another feeling starting to take over. It is now suffering or sadness. "There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air" (Chopin, 2002, p. 757). This new feeling unnerves Louise and even tries to force it back -- as only a good wife should, but she cannot control it. When she finally surrenders to the feeling, she is surprised by the word that comes over and over again: "Free, free, free" (2002, p. 757)!

Mathilde believes that she will find her own sense of freedom in the luxuries of wealth. She thinks that because she was born with physical beauty that she has a right to "all the delicacies and all the luxuries" (Maupassant, 2012, p. 1) her heart desires. She resents the middle class life she is forced to live with her husband and though Maupassant never has Mathilde say she resents her husband, how could she not? If she had married better, perhaps she would not be in the predicament she finds herself in when she is forced to borrow a necklace to wear to the ball. It is ironic that it is Mathilde's desire to have all the luxuries and delicacies at her command that ultimately drives her further into unhappiness. Mathilde borrows her friend's necklace only to lose it after the ball. Because of this, she and her husband must spend all the savings and take out loans to replace the beautiful diamond necklace. It takes them ten years of long, hard, menial work -- which strips away all Mathilde's physical beauty until she is unrecognizable to her friends. When she runs into the friend whom she borrowed the necklace from at the end of the story, the friend informs her that the necklace was a mere fake. Mathilde and her husband replaced the fake with real jewels and spent a good portion of their lives slaving to pay for it. Maupassant (2012) was quite clever in his storytelling here and the message that he seems to be sending about women like Mathilde. Society had led Mathilde to believe that because she was beautiful, she was meant for greater things than a lowly middle-class life. However, Mathilde was not even able to discern what was a real diamond and what was a fake. Could Maupassant (2012) be making a statement about Mathilde herself -- that though she may have looked like the real deal at the ball -- all dressed up in her fancy gown and jewels -- she was also merely a fake because people saw a woman that was not real. After the ball, Mathilde did not even have a proper coat to wear over her dress.

Louise has an hour of supposed freedom after finding out that her husband has died in an accident. Chopin (2002) tells the reader that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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