Marriage Imprisons Essay
Lectric Law Library defines marriage as,
“A contract made in due form of law, by which a free man and a free woman reciprocally engage to live with each other during their joint lives, in the union which ought to exist between husband and wife. By the terms freeman and freewoman in this definition are meant, not only that they are free and not slaves, but also that they are clear of all bars to a lawful marriage” (“Marriage”).
Unfortunately, this written definition doesn’t always seem to be working in everyday life. In the short stories, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin, An Adventure in Paris by Guy de Maupassant and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber, a reader may find many examples that demonstrate how marriage imprisons people.
In the vey first sentence in The Story of an Hour a reader finds out that the main character, Louise has heart trouble and may not be able to handle shock or surprise. At the same time, her heart problems symbolize her heartbreak over her role in life. From almost the beginning, the reader is given a clue that Louise has wanted to free herself from her marriage. Mrs. Mallard reacts to the news about her husband’s death with “sudden, wild abandonment” and locks herself in her bedroom (Chopin 123). The narrator notes that her reaction is not usual for a woman who has just lost her husband. She does not feel paralyzed or unable to accept his fate. She is able to quickly abandon her role as a wife.
Ironically, her husband’s death makes Louise to feel alive for the first time. The author describes the beautiful change from winter to spring. The new season is a symbol of the transformation of Louise’s character. The open widow symbolizes all the possibilities that are now available to her. The story’s springtime setting also symbolizes her rebirth as an independent person. Now that her husband is dead, she will be free to assert herself in ways she never before dreamed while she was married. She states that she had loved her husband sometimes, but that now she would be “Free! Body and soul free!” (Chopin 124).
The major irony of the story comes with the surprise at the end. Louise thought her freedom would come from her husband’s death. Instead, she gains freedom from his domination only in her own death after she finds out he’s alive. Unfortunately, long fee life she imagined lasted just for an hour.
Another great example of imprisoned by marriage woman is the main character of An Adventure in Paris by Guy De Maupassant. In the story the author reveals a story of a married woman who has spent a great portion of her life at home raising her two children. Obviously, she neither had the chance to experience much excitement nor adventure through these years. Thus, “she felt that she was growing old without having known life” (De Maupassant 512). She often thought of the exciting life of Paris, wishing to free herself from the dull life she led, and to get the chance to experience some pleasure on her own.
One day, she finds a pretext to get out of the house and goes “for a journey to Paris” (De Maupassant 512). She meets a well-know man, Jean Varin who shows her the way he lives in Paris. They go together for a walk, for a dinner, she even stays at his house for the night. Unfortunately, all she experiences next to his side is nothing comparing to what she dreamed of. She realizes that those well-known men in Paris aren’t any different than her own husband. Just like her husband Varin snores and sleeps on his back. Lying next to Varin in bed, she was “heartbroken” (De Maupassant 515).
Surprisingly through out the story a narrator never reveals the woman’s name, she is referred to the reader as a “she” (De Maupassant 512). This is not an accident of a narrative. De Maupassant shows that while the woman is married, she cease to exist as her own person. The woman is simply controlled and imprisoned by her family and all the responsibilities as a mother and wife.
In contrast, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber illustrates that not only women may experience a feeling of being imprisoned by marriage. The main character in the story, Walter Mitty is fully controlled by his wife and seems to be unable to stand up for himself. Mitty is trapped in a world that is full of dull responsibilities and offers few possibilities for adventure. He spends much of his time escaping into fantasies in which it is him who is in control, and in which his life is full of excitement and adventure. Mitty dreams of flying planes in hazardous conditions and causing scenes in courtrooms, but his life consists of buying overshoes and waiting for his wife to have her hair done.
His wife obviously worries about Walter’s health and welfare; she observes that he is nervous, suggests a visit to a doctor, notes that she intends to check his temperature when they return home, and reminds him to wear his gloves and buy overshoes. Unfortunately, at the same time she is breaking the spirit of the man in his life which makes him feel imprisoned. Mitty keeps escaping into fantasies to forget at least for few minutes about his miserable life.
Many people recognize marriage with happiness and joyful life. Unfortunately, as we learn from the three stories above, married people often find their life more dull than enjoyable. Lack of excitement and pleasures in marriage, make spouses’ life unhappy and that’s why they often look for a way to escape from it. Thus, in reality marriage differs from its written definition and in fact imprisons people.
Baush, Richard and R.V. Cassill, eds. The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. New
York: Norton, 2006.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” Baush and Cassil123- 125.
De Maupassant, Guy. “An Adventure in Paris.” Baush and Cassil 511- 516.
“Marriage.” The ‘Lectric Law Library’s Lexicon On. 2007. Lectric Law Library.15 Nov
Thurber, James. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Baush and Cassill 720- 724.