The Story of an Hour is a work of short fiction by southern regionalist writer Kate Chopin. Originally published in Vogue magazine in 1984, this widely read story by Chopin did not receive strong recognition until it was rediscovered during the height of the feminist movement back in the 1960’s. This work of the author greatly reflects and represents Chopin’s personal view on women’s roles in society which very much shocked her reading audience at the time.
As a writer, Chopin was highly influenced by the southern environment she grew in. She was raised in a household of intelligent, independent, pioneering women for she was raised by her French-Creole mother and grandmother (who was the first woman in Kansas to be legally separated from her husband) after being orphaned of her father at the young age of four. Toth in her biography notes that Chopin “…also smoked cigarettes in public and revelled in wandering around alone, drinking beer.
” Like in many of her other writings, in The Story of an Hour she illustrates to the reader [some of] the concerns faced by women and their plight to have their own identity. The Story of an Hour is a story set in the late 19th century when women’s duties were basically to keep house, bear children and present themselves as faithful loving wives and not much more. It tells the story of a married southern woman, Louise Mallard, who receives news of her husband’s (Brently Mallard) death.
Being of frail condition, those around her (sister Josephine and family friend Richards) took great care in gently revealing to her the disastrous news. At first the heroine takes the reception of the news like any other loving wife of the time: with despair and grief. However, when Louise isolates herself from her sister and Richards to deal with her feelings in private, she realizes something quite surprising to herself. To her surprise [and the reader’s], “a monstrous joy…held her” (Chopin) and it was during this moment of epiphany she realizes her overwhelming desire for freedom.
Empowered by her new realization, Louise ends her brief isolation and decides to go down from her room to welcome her future filled with “days that would be her own” (Chopin). However, with a sudden twist of faith, her erroneously reported deceased husband walks into the house to the surprise of everyone. As a result, Louise ended up dying ironically “of heart disease–of the joy that kills” (Chopin). This short fiction by Chopin tackles the issue of identity and self-discovery of women.
Written in a time where numerous social and ethical questions were in the minds of most Americans, Chopin’s take on the “Woman Question” proved to be quite controversial for the period. Rejected initially for its feminist message, The Story of an Hour is a prime example of how the author tackles female self-assertion. In the story, the author subtly hints at the social oppression of women. During the period at which the story was originally written, the standards upheld by general society for women were that of selfless wives and mothers.
This is reflected in the way the lead character Louise Mallard doesn’t even receive a name at the beginning of the story. She is only referred to as Mrs. Mallard and in pronouns until much later in the story. Ironically her husband Brently, a minor character, is named at the beginning of the story. By the simple omission of Louise’s name early in the story the author manages to imply how women at the time were mere “property” of men – that they were “attachments” to their father’s and husbands.
Courtney from Study Moose
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