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Women in the 19th Century

            During the 19th century, the role of women as mothers, wives, and individuals in society was consistently the topic of literary works. In works such as Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour, Henrik Ibsen's The Doll's House, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper the repression, neglect, and dependency of women in the 19th century is explored.
             Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" briefly presents the events leading to the death of Mrs. Mallard, a woman who has wrongly been told that her husband was killed in a railroad accident only to learn that he is very much alive and well. The relationship between the husband and wife is carefully developed, however briefly, and what emerges is a picture of a woman who is literally and figuratively made "free" by the unexpected death of her husband. Her first grief spent, she begins to sense that "something was coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully she was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her." The marriage endured by this woman must have been one in which she was subject to the will, power and authority of her husband; there is simply no other explanation for her sense of finally, joyfully, and totally being "free" of the "kind, tender hands" and the "face that had never looked save with love upon her." (Chopin 1153).
             The marriage of the Mallards, then, was not a "bad" or abusive marriage. This woman was treated with kindness by her husband, and his love for her is not questioned. At the same time, however, her great and "monstrous" joy at the prospect of years and years in which she would have life to herself "absolutely" is evidence of repression and subjugation. Thus, Chopin has depicted a marriage in which benign benevolence and love can still be limiting and constraining. So the woman who only the day before feared that life would be long becomes a woman who prays that this is the case.

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