The short story “The Story of an Hour” was written by Kate Chopin and first appeared in 1984. It tells about the ‘one hour’ brief story of the main protagonist, Louise Mallard, and her reaction upon hearing the news of her husband’s death by a car accident. And because she had a heart problem, her sister Josephine and her husband’s friend Richards decided to break to her the news as gently as possible.
Not long after the supposedly bad news was revealed, Brently, Louise’s husband, suddenly comes home alive disproving the former, causing death to her by heart attack. Majority of the story’s progression revolve around Louise’s reaction upon hearing the news about her husband’s death (Brian, 2001). The scenes where Louise isolate herself in her room and savor her new-found freedom add up to the hanging idea of the real reason behind her death.
It seems that the author actually give two possible emotional state to answer the underlying question of Louise’s joyful death: one is that she has become too overwhelmed to see her husband alive in contrary to the news about his involvement in a recent car accident and the other one is that she is saddened by the realization of the freedom that she thought she will have after hearing her husband’s loss is completely taken away from her again. Contrasting Representations Suprisingly, the short-story is written in complete contrasts of the main theme.
First of these contrasting representations within the story is Louise’s reaction upon hearing the news. The news about her husband’s death should bring her agony and tears but instead; she sits calmly “facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. ” Here we see a strange approach to the situation with the word “comfortable” being used to modify the chair near the window. Louise, a new widow herself, must not see the chair as “comfortable” as it seems just right after hearing the unbearable news of her husband’s death. Added to this, the scene outside the window also symbolizes something in contrast to the story’s progression.
The spring day from the view outside her window shows a contrasting image to the situation she has. The spring is a symbol of “rebirth” or “new life” thus the spring prognosticates Louise’s new life after Brently’s death. Another interesting symbol in the story is the description of the view laid upon Louise’s eyes as she sits near the window: “The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Brian, 2001).
For the readers, the description made by Louise about the view she was seeing clouds what her true emotions were at that moment. It seemed that as she isolated herself in a room, she completely disregarded the news of her husband’s death. These representations had become tricky in contrasting the main theme the story supposes to have or tell. Kate Chopin’s idea of a Joyful Death: Appearance versus Conflict What the readers may discover in reading this story is the possibility that there is an ironic truth behind the death of the main protagonist’s beloved.
In the main setting of the story where Louis sits in a comfortable chair, she mouth over the words we never expect to read or hear from her. She seems to be happy rather than being sad about Brently’s loss with what the story emphasizes on her shouting “free, free, free! ” The freedom she pertains here signifies of her having the will to live a life all by herself, after her husband is gone. As she plays a youthful characteristic of a woman, it is a well played proof that she was indeed after the freedom, of doing what she want to do and make decisions for herself.
With this fact, the story seems to have a conflict of its own: conflict between the ideas of appearance and reality. From the moment that the story emphasizes about Louise having her “freedom” at last, it could suggest the notion to the reader(s) that she is not saddened by the news. Unlike what she had shown in the central point of the story, Louise somehow is expected to grieve by the people around her, all having the idea that her marriage with Brently was a happy one.
This is what her sister Josephine completely understood with her reaction as she misinterprets Louise’s behavior and thinking. She hysterically calls out her sister in the room, believing that Louise is heart-broken but in reality, Louise is more lightened up by the news. The doctors’ judgment about Louise’s death also deals with this conflict. For them, it seemed that Louise died after realizing that her husband is alive. This appearance of Louise’s happiness is more illustrated when they predicted that due to heart attack “of joy that kills” (Brians, 2001).
Never did they think of the reality that she died because of another reason. That she dies because she was heart-broken to recognize the truth that she will not be able to gain her freedom as what she expected earlier. Role of Woman versus Man Another conflict in the story accentuates the role of woman versus man in the society. It is illustrated in the story that Louise is a submissive wife to Brently. But there is an internal struggle within her that tells that she was not happily married at all.
As what Louise thinks, “What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” justifies more to the idea that she, indeed, had loved Brently but more were the times she feel not. Maybe for Brently, Louise appeared to be happy with their relationship or he thinks and assumes that she is. Apparently, Louise wanted more the freedom she had felt for in that short while. After finding out the truth that she was not yet totally free, she had thought that only by death that she would took possession of it at last.
There in death she would find peace and liberty. Ironically, Louise took the realization that her husband was alive and chose to die in able to attain the freedom she longed for. Character Analysis Chopin made her characters compliment along with the theme of the story. The main character, Louise plays a youthful wife who tends to have her freedom despite her marriage with Brently. Her youth marked up the end of her life and this irony of life, of choosing liberty by death, seemed to be one of the uncertain situations in the matter of choosing life over death.
Brently, although his character is not discussed further on in the story, seemed to be playing a role of a husband who wants her wife under his control. Louise would never want liberation if he was a good man to her. His characteristic gives a deeper impact in the story, making Louise choose to die with freedom rather than living with him in a life full of despair. Josephine, Louise’s sister, was recognized here as a doting sister who takes care of her and all the matters that has a connection with her. Josephine, together with Richards, had taken care of gently telling to her the “death” of her husband Brently.
She half-concealed the truth, in order for Louise to accept it without suffering her heart problem. Richards, Louise’s friend, is the one who brought the news to the house, he is responsible for assuring Brently’s death. As he rushes to tell the news to his friend, there is a suggestive truth that he was worried about what his friend’s reaction would be after hearing the news. If he had not rushed over to deliver the news, there is a possibility that Brently could arrive first in the house and justify that his name in the news is a big mistake, preventing Louise’s death and would have lived more.
Apart from Brently, Richards is also responsible for the protagonist’s death. The story gives us the impression that not every death could bring grief to someone. It could be, in another way, a joyful event. Chopin had also brought about the issues of women and their role in the society. The story, written in the nineteenth-century, showed how women years back had no rights to be at their own will. Women then were still under the prying eyes of the society and men dominate over them. Chopin tackles a lot of moral issue within the story.
Her story suggests that it would still be better if women of her own time maintain their roles in the society. In the nineteenth-century, men are expected to be superior over women and not the other way around, not what Louise wanted to be. Her insights within the story inspires us with the vision of what harmonious relationships are ought to be and the wide complexity in bearing the contrasting truth between appearance and reality.
References: Brians, Paul. et al. Reading about the World. (Vol. 2) 3rd Edition. Texas: Harcourt Brace College, 2001.
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