In both The Story of an Hour and A Sorrowful Woman by Kate Chopin and Gail Godwin respectively, gender imbalance reveals itself in the institution of marriage, domestication of one gender and traditional oppression. Women in the two masterful stories are wallowing under social injustices caused by male dominance. The men are superior to females in almost all aspects of the society. There is a propagation of the belief that men are better poised to take part in the ever tumultuous arenas of politics, leadership, white collar jobs and such which characterized the thinking of many women from 19th century backwards.
In A Sorrowful Woman, the protagonist is a punching bag for sadness, torment and disappointments in marriage. Besides her sonnets writing work, she has to cook, bake and carry out other energy draining work. It is this heavy work that, perhaps, makes her to collapse dead. It is further possible that she has not been nurtured by her marriage to do these chores out of the love she has for her child and husband. Unlike many love stories where a maiden collapses and wakes up after being kissed by her male lover, her husband can not kiss her. The woman and her husband have a child 'tender golden three'. The name of the child is an ironic one considering her mother's inability to cope with the challenges of motherhood and its traditional role. The man is not mentioned as tormented as the woman and his share of the marriage in which they lived 'unhappily ever after' is rather quasi.
Mrs. Mallard in The Story of an Hour is a victim of a failed marriage and its disappointments. While marriage is associated with endless happiness, it ridiculous that Mrs. Mallard enjoys it in her marriage for just one hour. It astonishing to note this one hour happiness reached its full peak when she was told of her husband's death. Danger looming in her life is precipitated by her own preservation. She struggles to save herself but the equilibrium of her oppression is the only thing to show for her spirited fright. She enjoys a short live liberation she experiences nothing new her situation.
Comparing the two stories, women appear more tormented by failed and failing marriages than their male counterparts. Both women have become prisoners in their own marriages endlessly playing second fiddle to their unfeeling husbands. Their thoughts have also been imprisoned till they are freed by death itself. Women are more affected by failing marriages and the stories clearly remind the readers that gender conflicts within societies and individuals have largely been caused by sadness and other emotional disasters in marriages. Unlike men, women in the two stories have been subjected to unremunerated domestic work.
Finally, women in the two stories are oppressed. In A Sorrowful Woman, the female protagonist is struggling with the traditional roles assigned to her by a gender biased society. She has to tend to her only child and attend to her numerous domestic duties while the man of the house is away. In The Story of an Hour, Louise Mallard sufferings are not only defined by her failing marriage and health but also herself as Josephine, her sister, notes. The stories make a serious statement that women of this world have been oppressed and deprived their natural justice. Gender biased should be eliminated if the modern society is to achieve any socio-economic and political development. The need to co-exist and avail equal opportunities for all, irrespective gender, can never be overemphasized.