Essay Discussing Societal Conflicts in Lispeth and Story of an Hour


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Societal Conflicts in Lispeth and Story of an Hour  

 
"Lispeth" and "Story of an Hour" are both stories that deal with societal conflicts through their impact on the protagonist. In both stories the protagonists seem largely unaware of the conflict and resulting oppression, until events occur that force them to see it. In both stories the protagonists are ultimately "defeated" by the social conflicts; but the really important point of these stories is not winning or losing the struggle but the change that comes about as a result of the struggle.

In "The Story of an Hour" Mrs. Mallard , as one would expect, is very grieved at her husband's death. But as she attempts to adjust to her new status she begins to change. The author conveys this in a couple of ways. She uses references to what is happening outside the window, "new spring life," "patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds" to show nature paralleling Mrs. Mallard's opening up. The author also describes the realization of freedom as if it were a tangible thing, "something coming after he," that she was fighting off. Her epiphany comes when she realizes that she was oppressed. In this realization she finds new strength, courage, and joy.

She has not resolved the conflict; she has only become aware of it. She now knows that, although her husband was not a mean man, he imposed his will on her, and well meaning or not this was an oppressive act. It appears that she was not aware of being a prisoner until she was freed and in being free life has taken on new meaning, and she is a new person.

But in the end Mr. Mallard is not dead. And, as I said, Mrs. Mallard has only discovered the conflict between men's and women's roles; she has not resolved or overcome it. But she has changed and this new person is unable to cope with the prospect of living in her old world-the shock of it kills her. One suspects that has she not died physically, she would have "died" spiritually anyway.

In "Lispeth" the conflict is between two cultures: one indigenous and the other colonial. As in "The Story of an Hour" the protagonist, Lispeth, does not seem to be aware of a conflict and embraces her oppressor. In fact, she "used to lock herself into her own room for fear they might take her away.

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" The reader, however, knows how the English regard Lispeth and how they lie to her. Unlike "Story of an Hour," we know what Lispeth's epiphany will be long before it gets there because we are told things that Lispeth is not. Finally her epiphany does come and, like Mrs. Mallard, Lispeth is changed. She now knows the English are not her friends and she tells them "You have killed Lispeth."

Like Mrs. Mallard, she has discovered a conflict that heretofore she had not known existed; and this knowledge has made her a different person, one incapable of living in her old world. She doesn't literally die like Mrs. Mallard, but she does leave the English and go back to the Hill people.

Both stories accomplish what DeMaupassant described as the serious writer's goal: "to make us understand the deep and hidden meaning of events. ... how minds are modified under the influence of environmental circumstances." In this case it is the realization of oppression that changes the characters. Both stories also select events that serve to illustrate this theme. The authors tell us only what was important-which was another admonition of DeMaupassant.

 


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