“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, American (1850-1904)
“Great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.”
I have read Kate Chopin’s short story, “The Story of an Hour,” many times, every time with the same “wild abandonment” as Louise Mallard, the story’s protagonist. I pretend not to have read it before, relishing each word with fresh eyes and an open mind, yet preparing myself for the shocking, realistic ending. I am in awe of Chopin’s skill in drawing me into Mrs. Mallard’s life, even for an hour, taking me on an emotional and psychological roller-coaster ride.
When the story opens, we learn of Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble, her sister Josephine’s “veiled hints,” and her husband’s friend, Richards, “bearing the sad message.” After weeping on her sister’s shoulder, Mrs. Mallard retires to her room alone. She sits in an armchair in front of an open window.
“She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below, a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.”
SHORT STORY: “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, American (1860-1935)
There are no monsters or ghosts in this story, but it is a horrifying tale nonetheless. “The Yellow Wallpaper” describes the psychological deterioration of an upper-middle-class lady–l will call her Marianne. Marianne relates her story in her secret diary. We discover she has a vivid imagination: Her doctors describe her as having a “slight hysterical tendency.”
Marianne’s physician husband, John, “practical in the extreme,” rents a summer vacation house and installs his wife in a large attic. Marianne says, “It was a nursery first and then a playroom and gymnasium,…for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the wall.” Did Gilman have Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in mind where Mr. Rochester “hides” his mad wife, Bertha Mason, in the attic at Thornfield Hall? Apparently, Marianne is not vacationing in “a colonial mansion.” It is a secluded house–perhaps an old sanitarium–rented by John to hide her “temporary nervous depression” from relatives. Marianne writes, “So I take phosphates and tonics…and air, and exercise, and I am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again.” John’s opposition to “more society and stimulus” contributes to Marianne’s mental unrest, loneliness, and final deterioration. She begins her secret diary to “relieve her mind.” What does she write about?: Her husband, her illness, and her room–specifically, the yellow wallpaper. Continue reading
“Why I Live at the P.O.” by Eudora Welty, American (1909-2001)
This morning, I perused my collection of Penguin 60s Classics on my dresser, trying to decide which little gem I would take to the coffee shop. Penguin published these 5″ x 4″ paperbacks in 1995 to celebrate their 60th anniversary. These little books represent the best of short fiction and non-fiction, and they are so small and light, you can pop one into your pocket to fill those dull moments while standing in line at the grocery store. This morning, I chose “Why I Live at the P.O.” by Eudora Welty. Continue reading
Filed under America, STORY