Today, this is very different for most women, who are not as concerned about what society thinks if they decide to get a divorce (Coontz, 2005). For Mrs. Mallard and Godwin's protagonist, sitting near windows and looking at the world becomes a popular pastime, as they attempt to find a sense of peace both in their relationships and in themselves.
Mrs. Mallard feels unhappy when she begins to mourn losing her husband, and then feels guilty when she realizes she is glad he is gone (Meyer, 2003). That guilt causes her to remain secluded so she does not show the world either her happiness at the fact that he is gone or the guilt at feeling that happiness (Meyer, 2003). She feels, instead, that the best thing she can do is simply remain away from society. This would not be the kind of choice that would be seen in most women today, because there is no longer the social stigma of divorce that women had many years ago. While there are still some schools of thought that will look down on women when they are divorced, this is becoming increasingly less of a concern for the majority of women today (Coontz, 2005).
A comparison of both stories shows the women trapped in the roles that they have -- as wives and mothers. They do not seem to have an identity outside of those roles from a societal standpoint, but it is clear that they do have an inner life that longs to be free from the trappings of their poor marriages (Meyer, 2003). Being trapped in a relationship that is unfulfilling has led them to resentment and unhappiness, and has caused them to struggle with the joys that they once had in being married and having children (Meyer, 2003). In other words, the issue was not that they were wives and mothers, but that society saw them as only wives and mothers. That became the wholeness of their lives, and gave them the feeling that those roles were all that mattered or all they were good for.
When Mrs. Mallard discovers that her husband, who was believed dead, is alive, her heart condition causes her death (Meyer, 2003). While it is speculated that the shock and the joy of her husband being alive killed her, it is implied that what really killed her was knowing that her freedom would be ripped away now that her husband had returned. For the protagonist in Godwin's story, death is the inevitable conclusion. Before she dies, though, she completes the housework and chores. The implication with that story is that the "standard" way of treating women and putting them into specific gender roles is actually killing them. The lack of freedom they have in their marriages and in society is very detrimental to their health, and can cause them great difficulty and pain, even to the point of death.
Coontz, S. (2005). Marriage, a history: From obedience to intimacy, or how love conquered marriage. New York, NY: Viking Press, Penguin Group Inc.
Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K. & Newton, T.L.…