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Kate Chopin's"The Story of an Hour and Guy de Maupassant's The Necklace

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2430 words Published: 22nd May 2017

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In recent years, feminism has a profound impact not only on the family’s sociology, but also on other areas of social cognition. Feminists now analyze the patriarchy’s origin – a system of men’s domination over women, both within families and in the broader context of other social institutions. Anthropological studies show that all sufficiently learned societies were patriarchal, although the extent and nature of men’s domination in different societies differ significantly. However, in this paper, it is not important to dwell on the problem of the patriarchy’s ubiquity, but it is necessary to discuss the representation of gender roles and marriage in different works of literature. For the best understanding of the topic we are going to discuss two works of literature, such as Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace”. It is obvious that both literary works share a common theme, but they are different in their forms, style and content. Defining that exactly a woman is a main heroine in “The Story of an Hour” and “The Necklace” it is possible to consider the statement from a female point of view: No female domination we want to have in literature. It is necessary not to separate a woman from the literary process, but exactly to find her place and designation in this process. It is important to fill the book and media not in female themes, but in the approval of the feminine world, kindness, mercy and tolerance.

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Analyzing two literary works in details we should think about their authors in general terms. First of all, we are going to talk about Kate Chopin as a prominent writer of her time. Describing Kate Chopin (1851-1904) as the writer we can say that her name was included in the canon of an American literature and “The Story of an Hour” is considered to be a feminist reading. At the turn of the XIX century we see a situation when a wave of an ideological movement for women’s equality has led to a change in the concept of femininity, which inevitably required its interpretation. “New Woman” has become a major cultural phenomenon of the late Victorian literature. This is evidenced by the fact that in the period from 1883 to 1900, over one hundred novels were focused on the “new woman.” Although Kate Chopin is treated as a cult figure in an American feminist literature, in her diary notes she describes her current work on the “new woman” as the public fascination with hysterical, insincere and unhealthy patterns of life that some British women have entered into vogue in the literature. As any distinctive artist, Kate Chopin originally conceptualized topical issues of own time. Therefore, it is extremely important to trace the originality of the author’s interpretation of female themes in her works.

Thinking about Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) we know that he was a famous 20th-century French writer, and he also was known as one of the fathers of the contemporary short story. Fame came to de Maupassant in 1880 after the publication of his novel “Doughnut”, the first evidence of his artistic maturity. In general sense, de Maupassant’s stories and novels are characterized by their efficient denouement and economy of style. His numerous short stories are quite diverse in topics, tones (sad, gay, ironical, malicious etc.) and genre features. But most of them in the same way as novels combines the idea of ugliness of many forms of reality, brings a longing for beauty in human relations. De Maupassant’s unsurpassed skill as an artist was manifested in the fact that having an unusually sharp observation, the ability to select the brightest “speaking” facts, the ability to generalize and typify he was able to reveal big themes and make important social generalizations using own small novels as a field for a research. Using “The Necklace” as an example, we see that there is no lengthy description and extensive features in de Maupassant’s literature. The essence of a man, the idea of the work’s literature derived from actions of dramatis personae and behavior. The main thing for the writer is to choose proper circumstances, to portray a situation in which dramatis personae act. It is impossible to leave without attention the fact that a major role in the novels by de Maupassant plays a storyteller. Putting the narrator into operation is not a new technique invented by de Maupassant, but in de Maupassant’s literary works the narrator adds a lively character, helps to create the impression of the reliability of what is said.

The composition of his novels is always very skilful. The main role often plays denouement that is always diverse, because de Maupassant constantly strives to ensure the intrigue for the reader, and sends the reader’s thoughts on the understanding of the ideological meaning of stories. Sometimes there is no denouement in the strict sense in de Maupassant’s novels and short stories. And “The Necklace” is such a kind of a story, because readers themselves should offer it.

Continuing our discussion let us mention that “The Necklace” by de Maupassant is a short story-reasoning. From crude logic of “a naked” plot, claiming that it is dangerous to borrow someone else’s expensive thing, de Maupassant leads the reader to the social and moral generalizations that are characteristic for realistic literature. The writer never imposes his views to the reader, he tries to be as objective as possible, hiding own personality in his narration. But his thoughts make the reader to think about life, and these arguments extend the plot of the novel to the level of social generalizations.

Reading the story “The Necklace” by de Maupassant (1881), we see the place and role of a woman in those times from the first words: “She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education.” In such a way, relationships between a man and a woman become visible immediately. Onega and Landa (1996) summarizing the plot stated that “even though Mathilde is pretty and quite charming, she has none of the advantages of upper-class girls: a dowry, a distinguished family name, an entree into society, and all the little fineries that women covet. Consequently, she accepts a match made for her with a clerk, Monsieur Loisel, in the Department of Education.” The young woman has no freedom in her actions and her place in society was predetermined from the first days of her birth. She has married a man whom she never loved, but who was capable to take care of her. The story describes a situation when the above-mentioned Mathilde, wanting to shine at the ball, borrows a friend’s necklace. Early in the morning on the way home, she notices that the necklace disappeared. All searches were empty and she and her husband take a loan of thirty thousand francs to buy from a jeweler the same necklace and return it without explanation. In a result, the family forced to change own life and work off the debt, but at the end of the story we see that the necklace was false and ten years of life in poverty were unimportant. This story has no end, but it contains rethinking… What is the true value? Is a heavy, dreary life of honest perfect family, or a necklace, which during 10 years is considered to be a fake more valuable? Maybe another writer would made history with a necklace deliberately funny and comic, but de Maupassant in this anecdotal case saw sad. He revealed an idea about the way how people should be happy and how it is unavailable possibility to be happy for the most part of population in his novel.

In such a way gender roles and marriage is described in an interesting way in the story and the writer is convinced: in a world ruled by money, it is easy not only to destroy all the best, bright dreams of people, but to drain people’s spirit and souls, to form in their minds the false ideals; moreover, it is also very real and even easy to rob personal youth and beauty for the sake of something unimportant and false. In the hard world of material values, it is enough to find a fake trinket and become unhappy. Women and people with a fine psychic organization are unable to resist greed and envy and they heavier than others go through injustice of social order. Of course, it is indisputable that the writer’s skill was manifested in his ability to show in a single life situation broad social and moral problems of family and marriage.

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Comparing de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” to Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” we see extremely another situation. The original interpretation of “women’s issues” in the prose of Kate Chopin entailed important artistic innovations. Thus, communication nonverbal components receive a particular significance as a compensation for women’s silence. According to Toth (1999), a parody of a literary cliché and a variability of a plot serve as a special form of cultural stereotype’s alienation. Chopin’s story begins with the words: “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.” Thus, it shows us that in a gender relation the idea of female softness and elegance was associated with the body’s fragility and bodily weakness of women. According to Hoder-Salmon (1992) we see that “likewise, her marriage exemplifies the status of women in the early twentieth century in that the woman is subject to the patriarch’s “powerful will bending hers.” Although Brently “had never looked save with love upon her,” he disregarded Louise’s happiness: The “lines [of her face] bespoke repression.” So, a woman in marriage was like a bird in a cage. Observing the contemporary reality, it is possible to mention that disputes concerning a current status of a marriage and family with social scientists and in the mainstream press – especially on the collapse of a marriage and sexual behavior often have no historical objectivity. In past centuries, break-ups of marriages were very common, but mostly due to the death of a spouse, and not as a result of divorce. This kind of ‘divorce’ we see in our case and analyzing it Pontuale (1998) wrote that “What becomes noticeable to Louise when she hears of Mr. Mallard’s death is a change in the prospect before her. Whereas before “she had thought with a shudder that life might be long,” she now “saw . . . a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.” We see how in minutes of great grief, the main heroine overcomes a woman obedience, renunciation of herself for the sake of the family, social conventions, religious dogmas. And in addition to this fact Chopin and Knights (2000) added that even natural landscape reflects the main character’s new perspectives and opportunities: “The trees “were all aquiver with the new spring life,” “countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves,” and “patches of blue sky [were] showing here and there through the clouds” after “the storm of grief had spent itself.” Instead of “hear[ing] the story [of her husband’s death] as many women have heard the same, with a paralysed inability to accept its significance,” Louise is enlivened and motivated: “Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” It becomes obvious that she feels freedom, not from her husband, but from the existed rules, norms and dogmas.

Summarizing “The Story of an Hour” we see that it tells us about the complex mechanisms of self-discovery. Because the main heroine feels a lot of different emotions during the last hour of her life when to replace the first reaction of genuine grief comes a strange feeling that she initially could not understand. Unexpectedly for herself in her soul appeared a sense of joy and happiness in an anticipation of life, free from someone else’s diktat. Chopin (1894) wrote: “Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.” An hour later, when her husband returned home, who turned out to be far away from the crash site Mrs. Mallard dies … as doctors ascertain “of joy that kills”. The last words in this context sound particularly ambiguous. Compositional contrast images, landscape sketches, the logic of artistic details, comparisons, epithets – everything is subordinated to a common problem expressing the main ideas of the author.

Comparing de Maupassant’s and Chopin’s representation of gender roles and marriage we see similar features, because Kate Chopin was influenced by Guy de Maupassant’s compositional art and also visible conciseness and accuracy of descriptions, attention to details, a subtle pattern of psychological truth and denouement’s mysteriousness. Contrasting Chopin to de Maupassant we see that an approach’s specificity to an artistic understanding of a gender includes the fact that Chopin’s literary works sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, focus attention on issues of self-realization of women, the ability of the heroines to understand own personality and own importance, both within the family and society.

Thus, taking everything into account it is possible to come to a conclusion that both literary works share the common theme and both authors wanted to prove the fact that women strive not for the domination in society, but for own personality cognition and understanding of own role in life. In any case, a woman should stay a woman, and all poets and writers are right saying that exactly a woman is able to be kind, mercy, tolerant and make humanity better.


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