Chopin Vs Poe: A Wifes Death Essay, Research Paper
Chopin vs. Poe: A Wife?s Death
It is common for two short stories to have a similar portion of their plots. How the author presents that particular component of the story will vary each and every time. This will result in a different effect on the reader for every story.
The Kate Chopin story immediately starts with some very obvious foreshadowing of what is to come. The first line of the story says ?Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husbands death.? The part about the heart trouble immediately shows that she has a weakness, especially a weakness to surprise. Poe?s story on the other hand starts with somewhat of anti-foreshadowing. The beginning of the story explains how the narrator is an animal lover. He says ?I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them.? After this how could you expect the narrator to kill his cat, and then kill his wife for trying to interfere when he killed another cat. One critic goes to say that ?The mutilation (of the cat) represents the narrator?s compulsive assault upon himself and a partial obliteration of his vision of good.?(Howarth 89). He not only killed the cat, he mutilated it first then killed it. It is such a dramatic turnaround, going from an extreme animal lover to a cat killer and even a human murderer.
One similarity in the stories is the attitude each of the wives?. In ?The Story of an Hour? the wife is relieved at her husbands death. She of course goes through a period of mourning, but then realizes that she feels free again. She feels this freedom that is difficult for her to describe. She says she loved her husband, but often she did not love him. She started whispering to herself ?Free! Body and soul free!? She was free from the reins of her husband, at least so she thought. According to one literary critic this showed ?Chopin?s daring in the creation of characters who do not conform to the conventional.?(Bonner 96). The wife in Poe?s ?The Black Cat? was actually never directly involved on the conversation of the story. It can be assumed that she was not pleased with her husbands change in character. When they were first married they got along well and she supported if not shared the narrator?s love of domestic pets. As time went on and the narrator?s attitude toward his wife and pets changed it is safe to say that she was not happy. The narrator admits to using ?intemperate language? to his wife. He even threatened violence against her. This was definitely not the same happy marriage that it was when they were newlyweds. With this evidence you can see that each of the wives? were involved in unhappy marriages that they both would rather not be involved in. I do not think the wife in the Poe story was glad to be killed, but she definitely was not happy with her marriage as it was. It was obvious in the Chopin story that Mrs. Mallard was relieved she was no longer tied down to her husband as he was now dead. Because both of the wives? were not happy in their relationships, I think that eases the shock to the reader that they are dead. If it were the death of part of a truly loving couple the reader would feel a sympathy for the remaining half. In this case it is almost a relief that the undesired relationship is over.
Edgar Allen Poe is a master of telling stories that will morally shock you and horrify you. Kate Chopin, on the other hand, told a much less perverse story with less horror. This is not to say that her story was not surprising but it did not have the same chilling suspense as Poe?s ?The Black Cat?. One important reason for this is Chopin told her story in the third person, while Poe?s was told in the first person with the narrator as the main character. This first person narration allows the reader to delve into the narrator?s mind and see the sick thoughts that run through his mind. I believe this allowed the story to be built up much better, and for it to be much more suspenseful. This is how Poe became famous for creating the horror stories that he did. Several others of his more famous works were also written in the first person, such as ?The Cask of Amontillado.? The use of third person narration in ?The Story of an Hour? may have been the better method for that particular story because it was not meant to have the same ghastly effect on the reader that Poe?s story did.
In the case of these two short stories the reader can see that the author?s intent on how to make the reader feel differs. The Poe goes for the gorier, shocking story, while the Chopin story is much less gruesome.
Bonner, Thomas, ed. In The Kate Chopin Companion, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1942.
Howarth, William, ed. In Twentieth Century Interpretations of Poe?s Tales, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.
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