Being someone means that a person has one’s own concept of an own identity. This means that one knows what he/she wants and why he/she wants it. Furthermore, one that has properly established an identity can be freed of the manipulations of others. Men and women alike are in search and in pursuance of a self that they could call their own. Even in fiction, the idea of maintaining a personal identity is exemplified. Although their pasts could never be made out quite perfectly, the characters present state and outlooks about the future are enough to explain what is the common theme.
The women in the two stories lacked a certain sense of identity that is their own. Judging from their behavior, thoughts and desires, it can be safely said that being in a married state had made them lose their selves. Both female wives were accustomed to a patriarchal family where the male decides for the family. Nancy in Dead Men’s Path and Mrs. Mallard in The Story of an Hour were typical housewives who ascertain to the decisions of their husbands. Both craved for their own interests subtly. Both had unmet needs that were asking to be freed, much ignored by the people around them who were far too busy to even notice.
The female lead character in The Story of an Hour, Mrs. Mallard, was aspiring for freedom that she did not even know she was lacking. Being a married person, most of her time she was thinking of her family—husband, sister and other relatives. Her own good was put at the back of her mind and was very seldom thought of. At the time that her sister gently broke with her the news of her husband’s death, she finally realized that she had been cooped up under the shadow of her husband. Mrs. Mallard was consumed by the thought of exercising her long extinguished right.
In her mind she was thinking about the future that was smiling brightly ahead of her, for times that she would be enjoying on her own. “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. (Chopin, 1894). ” It can be said that her life with her husband had not been a rather satisfying one because her husband had not understood her likes and preferences. She further thinks that due to his death, “there would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.
A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination (Chopin, 1894). ” At that instant, all she wanted was to be free—to be really and truly free—in the full essence of the world. That thought she had enjoyed all to herself, as others would find it hard to understand her joy. She looked at the future ahead of her with a renewed hope. In the words of Chopin (1894), “But she saw beyond that bitter moment 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. ” Mrs. Mallard had been afflicted by heart attack, which showed how fragile she was. Despite the grief that she should be voicing out due to the sudden death of her husband, she could not cage the enthusiasm that gripped her intensely. “She said it over and over under her breath: ‘free, free, free! ’ The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright.
Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body (Chopin, 1894). ” Even her love—or what used to be love, even in the littlest sense—had been forgotten completely. In fact, Mrs. Mallard thought, “What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! (Chopin, 1894)” At this point she had established the notion that she was to put herself above everything else seeing that she is not expected to be caged again.
She could have sensed her inappropriate response to the death and so locked herself up to celebrate with herself before she went down to face her relatives. She was excited about the future that smiled brightly at her; her time would be spent on whatever she wanted to do without reference to other’s decisions and preferences. She was at last free to be herself again. That was of course until she found out that the cause of her imprisonment was well alive and breathing, her heart failing to cope up with the sudden burst of happiness and then disappointment.
The sudden news that gripped her with a revived hope for a bright future had been devastated at the truth that she was not truly freed yet. Nancy, the new headmaster’s young wife, had been burdened by the duties of a wife that she looked older than her actual age. In the following sentence her frustrations were illuminated as stated: “In their two years of married life she had become completely infected by his passion for ‘modern methods’ and his denigration of ‘these old and superannuated people in the teaching field who would be better employed as traders in the Onitsha market’ (Achebe, 1972)”.
The text explicitly mentioned that since she had been married she had lost her own sense of identity and became a subordinate of her husband who had better things in mind than listen to the woes of his wife. Also according to the story, Nancy had been the listener to what his husbands had to say about other people without saying that he has listened to what his wife wants to say. Achebe (1972) illustrates this position by saying that “Her little personal misfortune could not blind her to her husband’s happy prospects. ”
In the scene where Nancy was excited about her husband’s new arrangement, she was thinking about her new status and how every other woman would look envious. She was not concerned with what her husband had to do for the welfare of the community. Instead, she was focused on what she would be. She wanted herself to be better in comparison to the other women. She wanted not to regret the fact that she was married to a man that was not unhandsome but not dashing either. However, when she realized that unlike her all other teachers were unmarried, young and better in terms of physical characteristics than her, she was disappointed.
She had wanted to be envied and be idolized by others, especially females. Her simple dream was far from being fulfilled. In the story, her character had “began to see herself already as the admired wife of the young headmaster, the queen of the school. The wives of the other teachers would envy her position. She would set the fashion in everything…(Achebe, 1972). ” Looking at the two stories and the roles of females in the texts, a generalization can be made stating that females, once in a married status, is asked to sacrifice certain needs that they had been accustomed to in their single life.
Because of a family, the women in the stories were asked to be more mature than they actually were, thought of more important things than themselves and asked to understand others in turn. Belonging to a family that is ruled by the male, the lives of the two females could be seen as insignificant in comparison to their husbands. And because their opinions were often unheard, Nancy cannot be blamed for disillusioning herself with the prospect of being the “queen of the school”; neither can Mrs. Mallard be blamed for her blatant and straightforward yearning for freedom that had been evading him since she was married.
Also, the two women could be seen as incomplete because they did not have children with whom to share their happiness with. Nancy had a husband who was busy tending to the needs of the school while Mrs. Mallard had a wife that traveled for business purposes. Both were left to search their own happiness. Word count: 1305 Reference: Achebe, Chinua. (1972). Dead Men’s Path. Girls at War and Other Stories. Harold Ober Associates Incorporated. 30 April 2009. http://www. emcp. com/product_catalog/school/litLink/Grade10/U10-02deadmen/selection. php Chopin, Kate. (1894). The Story of an Hour. 30 April 2009. http://www. vcu. edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/
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