The late 1800s were a time of repression for women. A woman was expected to conform to her husbands ideals and accept a life of his control. Even today, the relationship between men and women sometimes seems unequal. In her essay “Disappointment is the Lot of Women,” Lucy Stone discusses the different treatment of men and women. “When I reached forth after the sources of knowledge, I was reproved with It isnt fit for you; it doesnt belong to women,” she recalls (Stone, 1).
Stone expresses her hopes for womens independence, instructing to “not tell us before we are born even, that our province is to cook dinners, darn stockings, and sew on buttons” (1). The short stories “The Story of an Hour,” “A Kate Chopins ,” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” illustrate Lucy Stones ideas about self-fulfillment and about the relationship between men and women in her essay, “Disappointment is the Lot of Women. “
In Kate Chopins “The Story of an Hour,” a young womans innermost thoughts about her life and marriage and her perception of the world are expressed through Louise, who reacts quite oddly after receiving the news that her husband has been killed in a train wreck. “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance” (Chopin, 624) and instead of lashing out, sinks into a comfortable chair, looks out the window and sees spring.
She explores the endless possibilities of what a new life would bring. She realizes that her husband is no longer there to control her. “There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself” (635). Louise is excited at the possibility to do what she wants to do for once, to make her own decisions, to appreciate the freedom that she has not previously experienced. “Free! Body and soul free! ” she whispers to herself (625).
She continues to think of all the opportunities that have been bestowed upon her with her husbands death, and grows more happy and hopeful with every thought. “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long” (625) when the previous day she had dreaded the thought; now her life seemed filled with promise and she intended to embrace it and live to its full potential. As she heads downstairs, anxious to begin her new life, she is so astonished to see her “dead” husband, who had actually been miles from the accident scene, that her weak heart gives out and she dies.
After examining her, the doctors conclude that she died of “joy that kills” (625), even though it is apparent to the reader that she died because of shock and disappointment. She had been given a glimpse of freedom and could not bear to go back to living under her husbands will. Her mere hour-long taste of really living, in the true sense of the word, was incredibly appealing; the disappointment she suffered when she realized she would not have that life was so immense that it killed her. “A Wagner Matinee” by Willa Cather also examines a womans feelings of disappointment.
Cultured Clark, who has left Nebraska some time ago for Boston in the hopes of escaping a life with his despised Uncle Howard, who had raised him along with his Aunt Georgiana after the death of his parents, receives a letter with a Nebraska postmark one morning. The letter, sent by his uncle, informs Clark that aunt will be in town to attend to a financial matter. The letter requests that Clark meet his aunt at the station and “render her whatever services might be necessary” (Cather, 543).
Clark persuades his aunt, whose love of music had inspired her career as a piano teacher at a conservatory before giving up music for a life of love with her husband, to attend a matinee performance of Wagners music. During the concert, Clark realizes that his aunt has been battered by her environment but not completely destroyed by it. He observes that “she is like that strange moss which lies on a dusty shelf half a century and yet, if placed in water, grows green again” (549). Although the lack of music in her life has taken a toll on her, she becomes transfixed when in its presence again.
Although she at first seems unaffected by the concert, Aunt Georgianas appreciation for the music she had been deprived of for so long soon becomes apparent. “Her eyes were closed, but the tears….. were glistening on her cheeks It never really died then the soul that can suffer so excruciatingly and so interminably; it withers to the outward eye only” (549). Aunt Georgianas envy of Clark is apparent when she softly asks, “And you have been hearing this ever since you left me, Clark? ” (549). As the performance draws to a close, Aunt Georgiana bursts into tears.
I dont want to go, Clark, I dont want to go! ” (550) She knows that outside the magic of the concert, the Nebraska landscape awaits her. She has made the indelible choice of love over art, and as disappointing as it is to her, she knows she cannot escape her decision. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman attests to the repression that women in the 1890s faced and they continue to suffer in this male-dominated society. The narrator silently questions her physician husband after he diagnoses her with “temporary nervous depression” (Gilman, 606) and confines her to her bed.
John is a physician,” she contemplates, “and perhaps (I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind) perhaps that is one reason I do not get well faster” (606). She knows that her husband does not believe that she is sick and suffering with depression, and with the agreement of her brother, also a physician, it seems pointless to argue. Gilman conveys an opinion of the repercussions a woman faces in a mans care in that the narrator loves and trusts her husband, but cant ignore the underlying feeling that his prescription of total bed rest isnt working.
She is subjected to the torment of being completely alone in a room with yellow wallpaper. She keeps staring at the wallpaper and begins to see a pattern in it. She becomes obsessed with the image, deciding that she does not want to leave the room until she has found what is behind that pattern and what it is doing (615). The narrator soon decides that the image is a woman struggling to become free, and sees herself in the woman. When she sees the woman creeping outside, she sees herself and locks the door, afraid that her husband will take away the only comfort she has known since she was put into isolation.
Though she wants the woman to be free of the paper, she also realizes that to let her go would be to relinquish her own sanity. She decides she must do whatever she can to keep the woman from escaping. “If the woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her! ” (618) After peeling away the paper within her reach in the hopes of releasing the woman, she becomes “angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong Besides I wouldnt do it. Of course not.
I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued” (619). Although the narrator realizes that society would look down upon her extreme act, she ironically does not conceive that the very obsession might be misconstrued as well. She longs for the activity and stimulation which she has been deprived of as the product of a society that puts woman in the lowest division and resolves to triumph over her husband and free her soul. She assumes the woman in the patterns identity and escapes from the room and her solitude, able again at last to “creep around as I please” (618).
Ive got out at last, in spite of you and Jane. And Ive pulled off most of the paper, so you cant put me back! ” (618) When she announces this to her husband, she is informing him that she has broken free of the demure, “wifely” mold and will not be overcome by her disappointment and struggle of her male dominance. The short stories “The Story of an Hour,” “A Wagner Matinee,” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” illustrate Lucy Stones ideas about self-fulfillment and about the relationship between men and women in her essay, “Disappointment is the Lot of Women.
Stone wrote that “In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of woman” (1). All three stories deal with a womans disappointment and frustration while trying to discover who she really is in a male-dominated society, and the obstacles she must or simply cannot overcome in order to become a person who appreciates life and has the will to live it on her own, rather than under the control of a male figure.