In this essay I am examining the three short stories “Turned” written by Charlotte Perkins Gillman in 1911, “To Please His Wife” by Thomas Hardy in 1891 and “An Alpine Divorce” by Robert Barr in 1887. “Turned” is about an educated and conscious woman Mrs. Marroner and her relationship with her husband and her response and attitude towards an innocent girl who was exploited by Mr. Marroner. “To Please His Wife” tells about an over ambitious and jealous woman Joanne who lost her husband and children on sea. “An Alpine Divorce”, a story of an unhappy marriage life of Mr. Bodman and Mrs.
Bodman which ends with a dramatic twist. The content of these stories are family centred themes focussed on wife and husband relationship in particular and the status of women in the society in general. The styles of presentation are interesting. “Turned” is set in an urban environment where people have more opportunities to educate and more social exposure and interaction. Mrs. Marroner came to know that her husband had an illicit relationship with Gerta who was their servant. Until that time Mr. and Mrs. Marroner’s married life was very good and romantic. They loved each other.
They cared for each other. While going on business trip Mr. Marroner told the girl Gerta ” Be good to your mistress, Gerta… I leave her to you to take care of. I shall be back in a month at latest”. Mrs. Marroner was deeply involved in her academic activity and Mr. Marroner was busy with his business. The initial reaction of Mrs. Marroner towards Greta was negative like any other traditional woman. She asked the poor girl “please pack your things to get out…. ” But her final decision was greatest and very progressive. Mrs. Marroner analysed the problem with her intellectual wisdom.
‘As the older, wiser woman forced herself to understand and extenuate the girl’s misdeed and foresee her ruined future, a new feeling arose in her heart, strong, clear, and overmastering: a measureless condemnation for the man who had done this thing’. ‘Mrs. Marroner rose to icy peaks of intellectual apprehension, from which her hours of frantic pain seemed far indeed removed…….. Mrs. Marroner’s sense of pity and outrage for herself, the wife, now spread suddenly into a perception of pity and outrage for girl’. In her view Greta was prey due to her circumstances.
”Gerta might have done better in resisting the grocer’s clerk…… But where respect was due, how could she criticise? Where obedience was due, how could she refuse… ”. She was compassionate towards Greta. Mrs. Marroner concluded that ”this is the sin of man against woman”… ” The offence is against womanhood. Against motherhood. Against – the child”. She took responsibility of Greta and her child. She disassociated with her husband in all aspects. She wanted to lead an independent life. Which circumstances helped her to take these decisions?
Ironically one of her husband’s letters to her indicated that ”If I should be eliminated from your scheme of things, by any of those ‘acts of God’ mentioned on the tickets, I do not feel that you would be an utter wreck”. ”That is very comforting to me. Your life is so rich and wide that no one loss, even a great one, would wholly cripple you… ”. Her education, financial independence and the influence of the urban life are the influencing factors to make her independent. The story is revolutionary in content. The style is very interesting. The story starts from the middle. It begins with Ms.
Mrs. Marroner’s cry and sobbing. The scene was so tragic. Until the secret bursts with wrongly addressed letters, you may not imagine the reasons for the uneasy situation in the home. Even in the second part of the story until the ending the reader will be anxious to know what happened to those two women. The ending was shocking to readers. Mrs. Marroner’s decision was challenging the traditional wife and husband relationships. It is new a thought and new act of a new type of woman. “To Please His Wife” is in a small town setting where traditions where given the highest importance.
The role of women in the society was that they were confined to the house, expected to be polite, gentle and are not independent, in the story. The story revolves around Joanna who was over ambitions, dominant and an independent character. Her husband Shadrach had no great desires or ambitions unlike his wife. He was satisfied with his family and family life. As author said, ”Shadrach was a good and honest man, and he had been faithful to her in heart and in deed”. To satisfy his wife’s desires and for children’s future, he was ready to take risks.
Joanna’s troubles started with comparing with others particularly with her close friend Emily. Joanna did not satisfy with the earnings of her husband’s first sea voyage. She replied to her husband that ”Well you see, Shadrach… ‘me count by hundreds; they count by thousands’. They mean Emily’s family. She further continued ”my dear Shadrach, you do not know how the world moves. ….. But they are rich and we are poor still”. One day her husband told her that he was ready to go for second voyage to earn more, if she sends children with him.