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Character Analysis of Elisa Allen and Louise Mallard Marriage is a critical key to many people’s happiness. Unfortunately, there are men and women who feel unhappy in their marriages but do not divorce for various reasons. Some take solace in something that makes them relaxed; some can crumble under the pressure of their own repression. Nonetheless, every person is strong in their own way. The short stories “The Chrysanthemums” by John Steinbeck and “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin portray two women who are unhappy in their marriages yet are deemed strong due to their actions and decisions in the situation they are under.
Elisa Allen, the main character in “The Chrysanthemums,” is a woman who is truly unhappy in her marriage. Her husband shows little interest in her. For example, when Henry Allen comes up to Elisa while she is working on her chrysanthemums, he says to her, “Some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across. I wish you’d work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big” (Steinbeck 258). Elisa gets offended by that remark; she spent so much time taking care of her favorite flowers. She shows strength when she retorts, “Maybe I could do it, too. I have a gift with things, all right” (Steinbeck 259). Because her husband pays little attention to her, she gives her all into raising her chrysanthemums as if they were her own children, which she did not have.
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When the tinker arrives, he attempts to charm her, so she can allow him to fix some of her things. Elisa does not seem interested and refuses his offer: she says to him, “’ Oh, no,’ she said, quickly. ‘Nothing like that.’ Her eyes hardened with resistance” (Steinbeck 262). Regardless of her unhappy marriage, Elisa is still faithful to Henry. That is until the tinker compliments Elisa’s chrysanthemums. Her face lights up with joy at his comment, considering they reflect her and all her hard work. She decides to give one of her roots to the tinker, thinking that she is giving it to another flower aficionado.
Towards the end of The Chrysanthemums, Elisa finds the chrysanthemum root she had given the tinker on the side of the road, thrown out like garbage. This act shatters her because she feels that she has made a connection with the tinker and helped her feel a bit freer, only for him to throw out the token of gratitude. Elisa comes to the realization that she will never leave or change her mundane and dismal marriage.
Louise Mallard, the main character in The Story of an Hour, is also a woman who is in a stagnant marriage. She is suffering not only from the marriage but also from a heart condition. Everyone is always tiptoeing around and being gentle towards her, so she keeps the façade of her happily being in love with her husband. We find out that that is a lie. In fact, after grieving over her husband’s death for a few minutes, she felt free from her banal, lifeless marriage.
Louise was extremely elated with the death of her husband; it was the death of her marriage. She kept repeating to herself, “Free! Body and soul, free!” which made Josephine, Louise’s sister, more concerned about Louise. She asks Louise to open the door; Josephine believes that Mrs. Mallard is trying to hurt herself because she cannot bear the knowledge that her husband is dead. In a turn of events, Brently Mallard comes home, clearly alive. He claims that he was never on that train and he was completely unharmed. Upon setting eyes on her husband, Louise looks bewildered. Her whole new world comes crashing down with the arrival of Mr. Mallard. The surprise of Brently being alive gives Louise a heart attack. Josephine believes that she passed away because she was overjoyed. But it was the shock of seeing a living, breathing Mr. Mallard, the realization that she, indeed, did not have her freedom, that had killed her.
Both Elisa Allen and Louise Mallard were in the same reality: they lived in a world where women were not equal to men. The man was always the head of the household, even if he was never home or the woman did all the work. William Osborne tells us that his source, Beach, “harbors an unsatisfied longing for some way of life less settled than that of the rancher’s wife, something typified by the shabby tinker camping nightly in his wagon underneath the stars” (Osborne 10). Berkove says something similar regarding Louise Mallard: “…its heroine dies, ironically and tragically, just as she has been freed from a constricting marriage and has realized self-assertion as the deepest element of her being” (Berkove 152). Both of their marriages are not what was expected, and it leaves the women wanting more love, adventure, and freedom.
In The Story of an Hour, Chopin seems to present detested men and how the world looks at women as if they are an inferior species. Mrs. Mallard makes it clear to us that she was rejoicing after the news of her husband’s death. She doesn’t feel like a bird in a cage anymore, so she repeats, “Free! Body and Soul free!” Even with her heart condition, Louise does not react gently; instead, she is finally able to do something with her life without having to earn her late husband’s approval. “She was so ready for that freedom, so much so that she literally died of heart failure when her husband walked through the door” (admin sandbox.spcollege.edu).
Elisa Allen is a woman who yearns for excitement in her life. That is why when the tinker comes by, she is eager to talk with him. In the journal article “The Chrysanthemums”: Study of a Woman’s Sexuality, McMahan talks about how: Warren French, after identifying the theme of the story as frustration, suggests that the central action concerns “the manipulation of people’s dreams for selfish purposes” – an interesting and valid idea but one which fails to incorporate the obvious sexual overtones of the story. … He sees the conflict in the story as a contest of wits between Elisa and the pot mender; frustration results from damage to her pride when she is outwitted. (McMahan 454).
Because Elisa does not have much excitement in her life, the tinker is someone who makes her feel alive. He compliments her chrysanthemums, ultimately complimenting her. Unfortunately, Elisa’s happiness is shattered, just like Louise Mallard, when she notices the mums she gifted the tinker carelessly thrown on the road.
Both women endure their unhappy marriages: Elisa endures because she has no choice, nor does she want to divorce. Divorce was not an option for many women, including Louise Mallard. In fact, “It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long” (Chopin). Mrs. Mallard had prayed that she would die soon because she did not want to continue living a life where she couldn’t do what she pleased. Upon finding out that her husband is dead, Louise feels grief briefly, and then a wave of freedom rushes over her. Chopin points out that “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin).
Conclusively, Elisa and Louise are both women who have been through a rough marriage, whether it was a lack of excitement or a lack of interest. Elisa Allen finds comfort in her chrysanthemums, which are the catalyst for her conversation with the tinker. Louise Mallard can breathe from her constricting marriage when she finds out her husband is killed in a fatal train accident.
Unfortunately for both women, their happiness is cut short, and they must endure the ordinary and not-exciting life they have been living every day. Thankfully, in today’s time, women are more independent and can divorce if they are unhappy; they can make their voices heard, and they are considered equal to men.
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