A Critical Analysis of Social Expectation in “The Story of an Hour” and “A Sorrowful Woman” Introduction On the surface level, both Kate Chopin’s “the Story of an Hour” and Gail Goldwin’s story, “A Sorrowful Woman” deal with the protagonists’ reactions to what the society expects from them. The protagonists’ codes of behavior do not necessarily comply with the society’s expectation. Obviously the social expectation in both stories is inherently and intrinsically patriarchal. Therefore, Chopin’s and Goldwin’s protagonists’ reactions to their loving and caring husbands seem to be confusing and eccentric.
But a deeper analysis of the two stories will necessarily reveal that the protagonists are not antagonistic to their husbands in a real sense; rather they are in conflict with their societies’ patriarchal expectation. They appear to be in conflict with a society that expects and teaches a woman to assume a role, subordinate and subservient to men, in the name of loyalty. Also such patriarchic expectations maim their freedom irrevocably. In both stories, the protagonists’ husbands are apparently innocent, loving, caring and infallible. But the only plausible reason that underlies the protagonists’ contained detest for their husbands is that these characters are intrinsically the symbol as well as the representative of the trammeling restriction of a male dominated society.
Social Expectations in “A Sorrowful Woman” Both Goldwin’s and Chopin’s stories deal with the inherent patriarchy of the institution of marriage. Even the kindest and most loving husband’s presence in a woman’s life can be as oppressive as the unswerving patriarchic social expectation is. An astute reader will discover that Goldwin’s anonymous heroine seems to be subconsciously tired of the environment in which she lives.
Obviously this environment is an indispensable construct of Goldwin’s patriarchal society. A woman’s obligation to follow the code of conduct obviously is determined by the society’s generic male expectation from a woman. Indeed this obligation of a woman to fulfill the male expectation comes up embroidered with a set moral demand. Therefore, a woman’s confinement within the four-walls of her husband’s house is considered to be female loyalty and virtue. When the husband in Goldwin’s story addresses the protagonist as a “cloistered queen”, his speech ironically refers to the invisible imprisonment of the protagonist: “You look.
. . like a cloistered queen” (Goldwin 23). This prison is invisibly built around a woman in Goldwin’s society through the male social expectations.
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