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The topic of this essay is to point out the similarities and differences in both of the authors’ works. Although Guy de Maupassant and Kate Chopin are two different types of writers, their short stories, “The Story of an Hour” and “The Necklace” focuses on values that connect them in literary styles and in the fight for women’s self-determination.
The setting for Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” and Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” take place during the 1800s when men played the dominant role over women. In both stories the protagonists are each yearning for a better life and each struggle to find it in a slightly different way. Emily Toth in A Vocation and a Voice writes, “During the 1800s the only expectation of women was to cook, keep house, bear and raise their children. During this period women were not even allowed to vote.” In both stories the protagonists, Mrs. Mallard and Madame Loisel, had different desires and both of them found happiness in their own way for a brief period of time that was quickly stolen away.
In “The Necklace” Madame Loisel feels that she is living below her status and is stuck in a marriage to a clerk when she could have been married to someone in a higher social position. In the short story by Brander Mathews, “The Necklace,” Guy de Maupassant opens up his story with the line “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.” (Mathews). This sets the scene for the rest of the story sending a message immediately of someone that is stuck in an ***unhappy marriage. In Short Stories for Students the author writes, “Monsieur Loisel’s complacency and contentment with his social situation contrasts markedly with his wife’s desire to experience life among the social elite. Whereas Madame Loisel dreams of magnificent multi-course meals, her husband is satisfied with simple fare: “Scotch broth! What could be better?” In contrast, “The Story of an Hour,” doesn’t immediately send the message that the protagonist Mrs. Mallard is unhappy until she gets the news of her husband’s death.
Kate Chopin and Guy de Maupassant both use imagery and symbolism at its best. In describing Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to her husband’s death, “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” (Walker). Immediately the symbol of a sparrow twittering gives you the impression of rebirth. The trees were all aquiver with new spring life symbolizes a new beginning. A fresh start. Mary E. Papke cited in Bloom’s Modern Critical Views writes, “It is easy for the reader to be overwhelmed by the pathos of the story, a natural response since the reader comes to consciousness of the text just as Louise awakens to self-consciousness. Chopin offers the reader only that one point of identification-Louise, whose powers of reflection have been repressed, suddenly shocked into being, and then brutally cut off. It is a disorienting reading experience to be cut off as well after being awakened to Louise’s new self-possibilities.” Stenning of Edgecombe University writes, “Chopin makes clear that to simply observe the world through one’s rational faculty is nowhere near as powerful as observing it with vibrant, vigorous, acute, and heightened awareness that emotion makes possible.”
In “The Necklace” Guy de Maupassant uses the following imagery and symbol, “She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things, of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her.” (Mathews). Again, here you get the impression of a drab unhappy home with all the material things tattered and worn as a symbol of possessions that are old, aging and dreary. Obviously these are not the things that would make her happy and provide the feeling of being young and vibrant. Although the Loisels are not in the lowest economic class Madam Loisel dreams of being rich. In the article Litfinder Contemporary Collection the author writes, “As part of the new middle class, they are precariously balanced between rich and poor, and have to make tradeoffs. The rich would have both, and the poor neither, but the middle class must suffer the agony of the choice.”
Both stories use irony to make a point. In “The Necklace” Madame Loisel is invited to a prestigious ball and borrows a necklace which she thought was very expensive and lost it. Madame Loisel and her husband knew that they had to replace the necklace and saved for 10 years. Madam Loisel bumps into Madame Forrestier and is told that the necklace which she thought was diamonds was only paste. In “The Story of an Hour” when Mrs. Mallard’s husband appears at the doorstep very much alive and Mrs. Mallard sees him, she is the one who collapses and dies from the shock of his being alive “She had died of heart-disease of joy that kills” (Walker) . Both writers send the message that all of the suffering could have been avoided had they been satisfied with what they already had instead of chasing rainbows.
Chopin and Guy de Maupassant also send social messages. Emily Toth writes, “The Story of an Hour” is also a clever piece of social criticism, showing without preaching. Chopin’s Louise has been a good wife, but she sees that death has freed her from sacrificing herself to someone else’s will. Now she can make her own life. In “The Necklace” Guy de Maupassant clearly shows that social status and class plays a very important part in the irony of the story. In an article titled Masterplots II, by Ahlbrandt, Wm. Laird, he writes, “In this the husband is as much to blame as his wife. Although Guy de Maupassant seems to be saying that such people are the victims of the society in which they live, dominated by the status-conscious in the early days of the Third Republic, he never prevents his characters from exercising their free will. It is precisely their ability to make such choices that leads to their own damnation. Maupassant shows how the Loisels are imprisoned in their loneliness and their lack of self-worth. Their pathos is their inability to speak to avoid a whole lifetime of misery.”
Chopin and Guy de Maupassant present two different women that do not want to live under the domination of their husbands. In “The Necklace” Madame Loisel seems to be trapped because of the social norms of that time. In “The Story of an Hour” Mrs. Mallard’s freedom is due to the constraints of her marriage. She admits that she loves her husband but feels guiltless for recognizing that his death means her freedom.
The Husbands roles in both stories are slightly different. In “The Necklace” the husband is very supportive and caring while in The Story of an Hour” it’s hard to discern what the husband was like. There is one sentence â€¦..And yet she had loved him-sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! (Walker, Nancy Chopin A Literary Life).You get the impression that he was a good caring husband provided for her and did his best to take care of her but you also get the impression that she was not in love with him.
Summary: It is very clear that in both short stories Kate Chopin and Guy de Maupassant use imagery, symbolism and plot twists to send several messages about women’s liberation, social norms, greed, unhappiness and the ultimate desires of two women, that only come to fruition for a brief period of time. Both heroines pay a terrible price for their inability to come to terms with their situation in life. The irony in “The Necklace” is evident when Madam Loisel finds out that the necklace was not real after working for 10-years to pay it off. Excerpted from an article in Magill’s Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition “What makes Maupassant’s famous story “The Necklace” so popular is not merely the ironic shock that the reader feels at the end when Madame Loisel discovers that she has worked long and hard to pay for a worthless bit of paste, but rather the more pervasive irony that underlies the entire story and makes it a classic exploration on the difference between surface flash and hidden value.” The irony in “The Story of an Hour” is that Mrs. Mallard drops dead when she finds out her husband is still alive. Nancy A. Walker in literary life wrote: If Maupassant inspired Chopin to be more daring in her subject matter than were many of her contemporaries, the resulting fiction deals more with challenges to social convention than with states of obsession and despair (180). She also wrote,” Even as she paid homage to Maupassant in her translations and in some elements of her own fiction, Chopin also deepened her associations with other regional writers with whom she was inevitably classified.”
Although both stories have ironic endings and send somewhat similar messages. “The Story of an Hour” is more in tune with a woman wanting to be free and able to be her own master. Unfortunately this cannot happen unless her husband is gone. In “The Necklace” the protagonist also wants to be free but in a different way. She wants the freedom of being rich and thus be able to socialize with high society. May, Charles writes in, Magill’s Survey of World Literature,”This, in one way or another, is the price to be paid for crass materialism and false pride. Had the characters been less superficial and been willing to admit the loss of the necklace, all of their misery would have been avoided.”
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