Both books depict tragic tales, whether the tragedy stems from an interpersonal conflict as in the case of The Story of an Hour or the conflict between the modern versus the traditional values of life as in Dead Man’s Path. Conflict plays a central role in the plots of both the tales.
The Story of an Hour begins with Mrs. Millard’s sister Josephine trying to find out a way to break the news of her husband’s accidental death to her. The response expected by Josephine was that her sister would be shattered by the news, just as common sense dictates. It is only when she retires to her room that the reader realizes the state of the mixed emotions of Mrs. Millard, as she feels both joy and sorrow at the death of her husband. One can infer that she had not been treated well by her husband because trivial misunderstandings do not cause one to rejoice in someone’s death. For the death of a person to cause someone such bliss the reason must be substantial. Later on when Mrs. Millard finds out that her husband was actually alive, she is unable to stomach the news and instantly passes away. The plot of “The Story of an Hour” is very impactful, it relates to the reader on some frequency. A particular point of interest in the story was when Mrs. Millar retires into her room and confides in nature as opposed to her sister (Chopin, 40). I feel this shows us the conflict between human beings and the social stigmas that exist in the society due to which even though Mrs. Millard felt plagued by her husband she still could not share her happiness over the much-anticipated freedom which she finally could see coming.
Dead Man’s Path depicts a very prevalent yet ignored conflict of values, opinions, and ideas between generations. The central character of the story is a young man with modern beliefs, Micheal Obi who has been made the headmaster of Ndume Central School, which he sought to transform with his modern ways. Obi holds the villagers in very low regard, which is evident from the following lines “These old and superannuated people in the teaching field who would be better employed as traders in the Onitsha market” (Achebe, 12). The path which Obi cordoned off with barbed wires had a lot of sentimental value for the villagers which Obi could not relate to. Instead of at least hearing the Priest out with a serious demeanor, Obi had a “satisfied smile” on his face as if he took pride in ridiculing the traditional customs held strongly by the villagers (Achebe, 13). This story is a classic example of the prevalent belief held by many that the values held by our elders are a sign of their being too old fashioned or rigid and reluctant to embrace change. Had Obi respected the villager’s perspective and let the path stay as it had been for years, the villagers would not have destroyed all the efforts he had made into beautifying the schools before the inspection by the “white inspector” (Achebe, 12).
Dead Man’s Path shows how conflict arising from a lot of pride and arrogance can lead to a person’s own doom. No matter how much effort we put into something we want, if we do not respect the creation of God the way it needs to be respected and instead look down upon it, then fate has its way to make us realize our mistake. The Story of an Hour has more of an impact because the end is unexpected and goes to an extreme (death of Mrs. Millard) to highlight the fact that our behavior with someone can be a cause such grief to someone that it might even take their life.
Achebe, Chinua. “Dead Mans Path.” Girls at War. New York: Anchor, August 1, 1991. Web. November 19, 2011.
Chopin, Kate. “Short Stories for Students: The Story of an Hour.” Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, July 23, 2002. Web. November 19, 2011.