Monday, July 11, 2011

Marital Relations

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Marital Relations

In the series of short stories read this semester, there are common themes found among many of them. However, the most prominent theme that stands out is that of marital relations and their imperfections. The following two stories discussed illustrate how ambiguous marital relations can be, and how many feel that the key to happiness is marriage and a family. However, many times life does not turn out as expected.

In Kate Chopin’s The Story Of An Hour, the main character, Mrs. Mallard is told of her husband’s death in a terrible railroad accident. Her initial reaction was to be upset, “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms”(18). However, after retreating to her room alone, she had a personal awakening. “She saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome”(18). Mrs. Mallard realized that all these years she had been “Mrs. Brently Mallard” and now she had no one to answer to but herself. “…She had loved him�sometimes. Often she had not”(18). She whispered to herself several times the words “free, free, free” as she became more familiar with the idea of finally becoming her own woman. However, all the years to become her own person we cut short by the latch of the door turning, and her husband walking in. The rumors of the accident were just that � merely rumors. Just as he was walking in, Mrs. Mallard collapsed and died of a heart attack. The story leaves the situation open so it is unclear as to exactly what cause her death. However, the reader is definitely led to believe that she had gone through the revelation of being on her own; the weight of being married had been lifted upon her. Then for a split second when he returns home, she loses that idea and faith of being her own person, causing her heart to give out.

Another example of a short story dealing with marital relations is Seventeen Syllables, written by Hisaye Yamamoto. This story is about a little girl, Rosie, and her parents, who live on a farm. Her father takes on the characteristics of being emotionally cold or hard, and controlling. Her mother has found an interest in writing haiku, which she did for the daily newspaper. Rosie developed a crush on a boy, Jesus, who often helped her father out in the fields. She was going through all the natural giddiness of a young girl with her first crush, even getting her first kiss. Seeing him coming from a distant to help her father out, Rosie took off to her house so she could watch him through a window. It was at this time a man came over to their house to inform Rosie’s mother that she had won first prize in a haiku contest she had entered. Her mother had fixed a cup of tea for the man, as not to be rude, when suddenly, her father came storming up to the house. After kicking the man out, Rosie’s father angrily took his wife’s picture, destroyed it with an axe, and then lit it on fire. Rosie could not understand why her father would do something like that to her mother. She went into the house to find her mother calmly watching it burn through the window. The actions of her overbearing husband prompted Rosie’s mother into asking her if she knew why she had married her father. “It was the most frightening question I had ever been called to answer”(18). Her mother told her of how she had been in love with a boy years ago when she was eighteen. Her family was poor and her father a drunkard, which was the complete opposite of his, so their relationship was forbidden and condemned to secret meetings. Her mother went on to tell her that she had a stillborn child with him, which caused her family to despise her once they found out. Threatening suicide, she wrote to an aunt in America to hastily arrange her a marriage so she could leave. The marriage set up so quickly was to Rosie’s father.

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Her mother made Rosie promise that she would never marry because she did not ever wish for her to lead a life as she had. Her mother married a man she did not love and had a family because that was the right thing to do. That is what life was; growing up, having an arranged marriage, and having a family. This is what she thought happiness was at one point.

The message both of these stories covey through their themes is that happiness does not always lie within a man and marriage. Mrs. Mallard lived her life through her husband, as did Rosie’s mother, and they were both unhappy. The time that Mrs. Mallard felt the best about her life was when she thought her husband was dead, just as Rosie’s mother found happiness with a boy she truly loved yet could not have. Her mother would rather see her unmarried and happy than in a situation like her own.

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