“The Story of an Hour,” “I Want a Wife” and “Trifles” all touch on the subject of marriage and especially the role of a woman according to the standards set by society. They highlight the irony of married women, though sailing in the same boat that is marriage; all face the same problems all on their own. In the three stories, the importance of a woman is secondary to the man in the institution of marriage.
Perhaps one of the more prominent themes in all the three books is how both genders identify with each other and their accepted defined roles according to society. Both genders once married identify with each if their own, men identify with each other as husbands and women do the same as wives. Another distinction is the defined gender roles do not interact with each other in the sense that the man cannot identify with what the women do and neither can the women identify with what the men do. A good example can be found in “Trifles” via Mrs. Hale “I’d hate to have men coming into my kitchen, snooping around and criticizing” in this instance, both women defend Mrs. Wright whom the county attorney criticize for not having a tidy kitchen. They identify with the demands of organizing a home and think the man has no right to criticize a lapse in their wifely duties.
A husband ideally defines a married woman; she has no identity of her own. In “Trifles”, the county attorney identifies Mrs.Peters as one who is married to the law by virtue of her husband being the sheriff. “No, Mrs.Peters doesn’t need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff’s wife is, in fact, married to the law. Ever think of it that way Mrs.Peters?” p1099. Upon introspection, the statement shows that a married woman is to an extent even judged according to her husband’s perceived behavior regardless of what she thinks about him. If he is a good man, the she enjoys the privilege of being a respected member of society as is the case with Mrs.Peters. If, on the other hand, her husband is of questionable character then she suffers the fate of having to prove herself worthy to the society.
“I Want a Wife” begs the question ‘my God, who wouldn’t want a wife’ as asked by the author about the benefits of having one against living without. In the essay, the role of a woman to cater to the whims of her husband, in the event that he wants another wife to replace the one he has, it is not in her place to question his decisions. “If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one. Naturally, I will expect a new life; my wife will take the children and be solely responsible for them so that I am left free.” The persistent theme in this type of a marriage is that of a wife’s complete submission to her husband. The essay highlights the disproportionate power of a man in a marriage. He is the only one with a say over both their lives regardless of whether a woman complies with his demands. Thus, though his equal in terms of level of education, income, age, or social standing, the woman appears to be somewhat incapable of living the life she wants once she is married, the man, on the other hand, gains from marriage to live a life he wants at the expense of his wife.
Though the women are seen agree on the difficulty it takes in running a house especially when there are children to take care of, they also empathize with the effort it takes to be a housewife without children as was the case with Mrs. Wright. They all have come to accept their fates as wives, as akin to, foregoing your own ambitions and desires to take care of those in your household. Wives are able to hide each other’s flaws from those on the outside of their friendship, they are also able to comfortably encourage and help each other out since they face similar challenges though each has to overcome the said challenges individually.
The “Story of an Hour” however shows a different perspective to marriage. One where a person freedom can be regained albeit through the demise of one’s spouse. In this story, Mrs. Mallard celebrated upon hearing the news of her husbands supposed death. Though the other characters are unaware of this, she is overjoyed at the thought of living a life that is centered on her. She is seen to be optimistic about the future and even wishes for a longer life so that she can be able to enjoy the thing that her marriage barred her from. The tragedy is that, in the end, Mrs. Mallard is killed not by news of her husband’s death but the sight of him as he enters their home.
The stories highlight what is perhaps the most prominent themes in all the three books, the feeling of entrapment. They also define the role of a woman who goes on to be a wife and the disturbing expectation that all women should aspire toward marriage. Women are to be the most vulnerable in the institution of marriage (their life revolves around taking care of their household without gaining prominence in terms of making decisions on matters concerning the family). The benefits of marriage are somewhat one-sided to favor the man and to an extent, the children since they all will all have the woman tending to their needs at all times. The irony being that there is no one taking care of a woman.
Chopin, Kate. The story of an hour. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2001. Print.
Glaspell, Susan, and Donna Haisty Winchell. Trifles. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2004. Print.