It has been a long time since I posted her at Education and Technology. Some of the reasons? Working two jobs, one full time in the school system 37.5 hours a week and one at Lowes Home Improvement 25-35 hours a week. At the same time for the last 6 weeks I have been taking 12 hours, or four courses to finish my college degree. That gives me exactly zero days off from both jobs or school for the last six weeks and only weekends before that. The weekends have been taken up by time with my 3 kids and wife. So, as you can see writing for this blog has not been my number one priority.
Since my last course in the process of getting my education is a literature course in short story, I thought that I would share with you my first essay, which is a literary analysis of symbolism in two short stories. I hope you enjoy it.
11 July 2013
Symbolism in The Story of an Hour and Hills Like White Elephants
In the two short stories, The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin and Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway the use of symbols is a integral part of each story that leads the reader from beginning to an understandable ending. The Dr. Fitch of the College of DuPage states that “A symbol is an object or event that, by virtue of association, represents something more or something other than itself.” (Fitch, “The Literary Apprentice”) The symbolism in both stories is used to illustrate a woman’s feelings of oppression by her male counterparts. This essay intends to show this use of symbolism by these authors to emphasize the oppression of the main female characters.
The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin starts with a wife of faint heart that her friends are trying to softly tell her that her husband has been killed in” a railroad disaster” (Bausch 123). The symbol of this story occurs with an open window when Mrs. Mallard learns of her husband’s death. The scene outside the open window is described as “all aquiver with spring life” (Bausch 123). This symbolizes Mrs. Mallard’s feelings that she has new life. She has been released from a burden of her husband’s oppression and will. It is like a person who has not been able to make their own decisions for a long time, but is now set free to do as they please. The wave of emotion, the feeling of knowing that they can do anything they now wish without fear of oppression from her husband is expressed in the open window in another passage where Mrs. Mallard says under her breath “free, free, free!” (Bausch 124). Everything leading up to those words points to the oppression Mrs. Mallard felt and freedom that the open window symbolizes. The reader hears of the “delicious breath of rain”, “the distant song” someone was singing and the “sparrows that were twittering” (Bausch 123).
The open window comes crashing into the forefront at the close of the story as Mrs. Mallard was thinking of all the wonderful things she could now do. As she goes downstairs with her sister happy and joyful, she then sees Mr. Mallard walk in the front door alive. With a “piercing cry” (Bausch 125) Mrs., Mallard dies. With her goes the freedom of the open windows symbolism. The oppression of her husband has returned and the open windows symbolism has died in an instant.
As with “The Story of an Hour”, the “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway uses symbolism to enhance the depiction of an oppressed woman and, in the end, that symbol is crushed by the males oppression of the female. The story is set in Spain, with the two main characters being a woman and her male lover.
The title of this story includes the symbol of the female’s oppression, which are the hills when she says “They look like white elephants” (Bausch 336). As the narrative banters back and forth between the characters it can be seen that the white elephant is a reference to her pregnancy. The symbolism is brought into light as the story progresses that the woman is pregnant and is in a struggle of her want to control her body and her male American lovers want to oppress her, to control her and her decision about her body. In this time period a woman was not to argue with a man and the thought of a bastard child was unthinkable to a man. While the white elephant is meant to show the oppression of a woman’s will, it also shows the oppression of women during the historical period that the story was written.
The white elephant is the decision to keep a life or abort a life. It is an enormous one that this story is trying to illustrate. The conversation between the two main characters focuses on the male trying to convince the woman to give up the baby, while she all along feels that he is trying to press his will on her. She has come to the rail station to go satisfy her lovers demanding oppression to have an abortion. He demeans her with his comment “That was Bright” (Bausch 336) to her point that she was trying to talk about the hills and comparing them to a white elephant. Just following this, her will begins to break as she changes the overall symbol in an effort to play into his favor to get a concession to her situation and her want to keep the child by saying “the hills really don’t look like white elephants” (Bausch 337).
As they continue from this point you can see the symbolism of the oppression become harder and more pronounced because of her degrading her own symbolism. The American sees this and takes advantage of it telling her that her “I’ll stay with you all the time” and “We’ll be fine afterwards” (Bausch 337). But the fight between them just comes right back as the couple spar back and forth while drinking. As he continues to force his will by making her feel that he cares for what she wants, her thoughts, her will and that he loves her you can feel that her will is broken; she wants him to love her.
In the end the oppression that the white elephant represents becomes extremely obvious when she asks that if after she has relented, will he like it when she says “things are like white elephants?” (Bausch 337). She has rationalized his oppression that he wants what is best for her. The white elephant as a symbol of the oppression of her will is confirmed as she gives up and submits to her American lovers will. She shuts down with the thought “Please, please…stop talking” (Bausch 338). She has lost; the white elephant of oppression has won. She just wants to get it over with.
In both stories a symbol is used to relate the oppression of a woman by a male, whether it be the woman’s husband in The Story of an Hour or her lover in Hills Like White Elephants. The first story uses the symbol of an open window to show the freedom, the happiness and joy the main character feels when she hears that her husband is dead. It is the opposite reaction to oppression, which is expressed in this symbol to show how oppressed Mrs. Mallard was. On the other hand the second story uses the symbol of a white elephant to show a males oppression of a woman’s will in one of the most important decisions she ever has to make. It shows that while a woman has a voice, she is oppressed by male influenced views of the time period. Both stories use a strong symbol to relate a very important view of male oppression toward women in different ways with different topics.
Fitch, Dr. Frances. “Symbols, Allegory, Archetype.” The Literary Apprentice. College of DuPage 2000. Web. July 3rd 2013.
Bausch, Richard. The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction: Shorter Edition. Vol. 7th Ed. New York: Norton, 2006. Print.