Elisa Allen in Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” and Louise Mallard in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” have a great deal in common because of the fact that they both went through similar struggles. Both Elisa and Louise prove to be strong women that clearly had dreams of their own such as being equal to men and having a passionate relationship with a man. Although that may be true, they lacked resemblance in the true desire they each yearned for.
Firstly, Elisa and Mrs. Mallard related in the fact that they both faced the sad reality that women in their time periods were unbearably unequal to men. For example, in “The Chrysanthemums,” it was clear that women had no say in the business aspects of things such as running a ranch. This is evident when Steinbeck writes that “Elisa looked down across the yard and saw Henry talking to two men in business suits… Elisa watched them for a moment and then went back to her work” (229).
It’s obvious that Elisa’s opinion on the business aspects of the ranch are completely disregarded. If her opinions did matter then she would be with her husband and the business men making decisions as a team. In addition, women could not be free to do things such as travel along the countryside.
This becomes noticeable when Elisa tells the Tinker from “The Chrysanthemums” that living a travelers life must be nice and the tinker responds by saying “It ain’t the right kind of a life for woman” (234). The way the Tinker responded clearly shows that the idea that society has about women in their time period is more of a housewife kind of idea. They don’t see women as travelers or adventurers. Lastly, women could not live for themselves like Mrs. Mallard wished in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” This is especially evident shortly after finding out her husband had passed away. Mrs. Mallard starts whispering to herself “Free, free, free!” (169). Clearly women in her time period were not allowed to do anything they wanted. They had to stay at home, raise children, and be housewives, otherwise Mrs. Mallard wouldn’t have seemed so excited to be free.
Secondly, both Elisa and Mrs. Mallard were terribly lonely and unhappy with their marriages. The first time this comes across is when in “The Chrysanthemums” Steinbeck writes “Her hesitant fingers almost touched the cloth… She crouched low like a frowning dog… she stood up very straight, her face was ashamed” (234). Undoubtedly, Elisa yearned for a passionate relationship so much so that she was practically throwing herself at the Tinker. She felt ashamed because she realized that her intentions were wrong and she was flirting with a man that was not her husband.
Though it doesn’t clearly state whether Mrs. Mallard was lonely or unhappy with her marriage Chopin suggests that she was. The fact that Mrs. Mallard was telling herself “Free! Body and soul free!” (Chopin 170) after finding out about the death of her husband suggests she was unsatisfied with not just her life but her relationship as well. If Louise had had a passionate and romantic relationship with her husband maybe she wouldn’t have been so intensely happy that her husband had passed away. She also wouldn’t have been so obsessed with the idea of being free.
Although Elisa and Mrs. Mallard both related in their struggles, they differed quite a bit in the ultimate desire they each had. Mrs. Mallard wanted more than anything to be free and this comes across clearly throughout Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” On more than one occasion Mrs. Mallard shows how ecstatic she is to finally be free. Mrs. Mallard not only shows she wants to be free by constantly whispering to herself “Free, free, free,” (Chopin 169) but it shows in her death as well. When Mrs. Mallard saw that her husband was alive she died because her dream of finally being able to do what she pleased was gone. Her only wish was taken from her in the blink of an eye. On the other hand, even though Elisa wished things could be different for women (that they could be free do to as they please) it showed that what she wanted more than anything was to have a passionate relationship with someone.
This is especially evident when Elisa has an encounter with the Tinker and when at the end of the story “The Chrysanthemums” Steinbeck writes that Elisa “turned up her coat collar so he [her husband] could not see that she was crying weakly…” (237). After the encounter that Elisa had with the Tinker she felt as if there was still a chance that she could have some kind of romance in her life. Later, she sees the chrysanthemums that she had given the Tinker thrown on the side of the road. Only then does she realize that she had been taken advantage of by the Tinker simply to gain business, not because he was actually interested in her. At this point its almost as if Elisa gives up on the idea of having some kind passion in her life and she just breaks down crying.
Without a doubt, Elisa and Louise were both unfortunately devastatingly lonely women with ambitions of their own. Elisa in Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” and Louise Mallard in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” related in the struggles they faced emotionally and the struggles they faced in society but in the end they differed in the true desire they each had.