Inept Victorian Regimes Essay, Research Paper
During the late 19th Century, society deemed women as housewives, with little or no chance for social mobility. As a matter of fact, they weren t even allowed to vote in National Elections until the 1920 s. Kate Chopin, who lived in this time era, writes three different stories, Ripe Figs , Story of an Hour , and The Storm about three young women in very similar situations, Babette, Mrs. Mallard, and Calixta respectively. Chopin s stories show that regardless of economic position or social status, young women growing up in this time period were all similarly faced with Victorian regimes which were becoming increasingly inept.
The first and most important similarity between the three characters is how they desire a little more freedom which had been withheld by society. Babette, for example, is a young girl that lives with her godmother, Mamam-Nainaine, and desires freedom to go visit her cousins. Her godmother imposes a condition that she would allow her to go, but only when the figs ripened. This was not just to cause her granddaughter unnecessary anxiety, it was to prepare her for sub ordinance in a future matrimony, something that was necessary for her godmother to impose since it is probable that Babette did not have a fatherly figure.
While at similarly the same time period, Mrs. Mallard hopes for freedom of her matrimony to Mr. Brently Mallard. Mr. Mallard was a good, hard working husband who tried to give his wife everything she needed. However, what she really wanted was a separate identity of her own, something that neither her nor her husband were even of. She realizes this need when she receives the unexpected news that her husband had died in an accident.
Calixta, on the other hand, desires the type of freedom that even today is viewed as unacceptable in most societies. She portrays a young married woman in a lower social class than either Babette or Mrs. Mallard. She takes advantage of the time that her husband and child are away to have an extramarital affair. Not that she consciously wants an affair, but her desire is obvious because the story lets us know from the very beginning that she felt very warm (Storm, 27).
Unlike Mrs. Mallard or Calixta, Babette is the only woman who is not married, and therefore portrays a much more innocent character. She is quite open about her desire and expresses it outwardly, unlike Mrs. Mallard and Calixta, who hide their desires through hypocritic means in order to mislead their husbands. The means by which they gain their freedom clearly correlates to this assumption. Babette gains her freedom by obedience and patience; until the figs were ripe just like grandma had ordered. Mrs. Mallard gains her temporary freedom by chance; a freak train accident that had supposedly killed her husband. Although Calixta tried to suppress it, her freedom was gained in secretive by the immoral practice of an affair, made possible by a storm that kept her family at a store for shelter.
Although neither of the three stories go much into detail about the characters social and economic standing, we can make inferences about each of the characters through hints provided in the stories. Mrs. Mallard s husband probably has a good job and was able to afford the two-story house that the story mentions. Babette s godmother, Mamam-Nainaine, is probably the result of a good heritage, as her stately ways seem to attest (Figs, 4). Another clue to Babette s economic status is the dainty porcelain platter that she bore. Calixta, on the other hand, doesn t seem very well educated and is probably lower in the social class, judging by her regional and limited dialogue. An example of this dialogue occurs towards the end of the story when her husband and child return after the storm is over. Oh, Bobin t! You back! My! But I was uneasy. W ere you been during the rain? An Bibi? He ain t wet? He ain t hurt? (Storm, 30).
Kate Chopin s stories illustrate that no matter what their social background, women growing up in the late 1800 s we all similarly bound together by the strict standards that society said should be followed. Women had very little rights and virtually no identity of their own once they were married. It is therefore not surprising to see the rise of the Women s Movement just a decade later which substantially changed the attitude towards women in the years to come.