Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is a short story that leaves many unanswered questions, tells the tale of a woman who is not upset about her husband’s passing and describes a struggle for identity.
“The Story of an Hour” reminds me of a vignette in the way that it leaves out details that that the reader needs in order to easily understand the characters and plot of the story. The author allows the reader to form his or her own interpretation of how the woman will react to the report of her husband’s unavoidable destiny.
The words “free, free, free,” signify that the woman is not exceptionally upset that her husband has died in a train accident. The story then begins to twist the story into the opposite of what the reader might think will take place. The woman encounters complete joy over the death of another human being, instead of sorrow. This now gives the reader the impression that she has been mistreated in the marriage and that, perhaps, his death is in the wife’s best interest.
The ending conjures questions that are difficult to answer, such as why the woman dies at the sight of her living, breathing husband. It is possible that the woman, throughout her marriage, makes herself ill in the misery that she feels in being attached to the man. She may feel that she is healed as she hears of his permanent departure from the world, yet she gives up on life once she realizes the truth.
I find it interesting that her first name is only told to us after she hears of her husband’s death. Previous to her knowledge of her husband’s death, she is known as Mrs. Mallard or “she.” While it seems very normal for a wife to assume her husband’s name in marriage, she may have felt that she became his property due to his demeanor. The woman is aware of her loss of self, and the sovereignty she feels when she assumes that he is dead becomes inescapable and even delightful.
The human situation causes misery, and along with despair comes the contemplation of how to escape such conditions.