“Free, free, free!” these were the words said by Mrs. Louise Mallard, the main character of “The Story Of An Hour”, after finding out her husband was dead. On hearing the news about her husband’s death, Mrs. Mallard is devastated, “she wept at once”, but then she takes time to understand what it means for her in terms of freedom. This changes her emotions. The story of an Hour uses Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to the death of her husband to represent how women in the 19th century felt repressed in marriage.
It explores the idea that marriage is confinement to women who are expected to live through their husbands.
The story, “The Story Of An Hour”, presents the protagonist Mrs. Luis Mallard. She was a woman “afflicted with a heart trouble”. Not only did she suffer from sickness, but she also suffered from unhappiness in her marriage. She felt trapped and oppressed in her marriage but never expressed it.
She was never able to stand up for herself in herself or break free from the bondage of her marriage which is why the news of the death of her husband came as a great relief for her. After a moment of grief, Mrs. Mallard had a new perception of life. She is now “body and soul free” as opposed to being trapped or controlled by her husband.
Mrs. Mallard realizes that now her husband is gone, “she would live for herself” and not for him. “There was a feverish triumph in her eyes” because she felt she had won her freedom.
“Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her” because she was finally excited about life and what was to come in this newfound freedom. After accepting the fact that she was free at last, she “breathed a quick prayer that life might belong. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long” because her husband’s death assured her a good life so she hoped it would be a long one. This shows how oppressed and restricted she felt in her marriage because of her husband.
Mr. Brently Mallard, the husband of Mrs. Louise, was assumed to be dead in a railroad disaster. He was supposedly a good husband who loved Mrs. Mallard and she knew it as he “never looked save with love upon her”. This means he never looked at her except in a loving or caring manner. He cared for her and did what he thought was best for her. Mrs. Mallard had also loved him, but only “sometimes”. This is because there was a flaw in the marriage. Mrs. Mallard felt she had to live for him because he blindly imposed his will on her. Love meant nothing to her anymore because “What could love…count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being”. She realized that having power over her own will was a feeling greater than love as the love she shared with her husband was more like bondage to her. Although her husband loved her, she felt no guilt about the joy she felt towards his death. She loved him but she cherished the feeling of individuality more. Towards the end of the story, someone was opening the front door, and “It was Brently Mallard who entered”. Mr. Brently was well and alive. Mr. Mallard’s desire to live long takes an ironic twist when she sees her husband is in fact not dead but standing, alive, in the front door. All Mrs. Mallard’s fantasies of freedom were immediately taken away from her. Her sister screams, her husband’s friend moves to block her husband from her but it’s too late. Mrs. Mallard dies.
“When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills” because nobody would ever guess that a woman can feel denied the right to live her own life due to the construct of marriage. They believed that switching from so much grief to so much joy was too much for her heart to handle. None of the doctors would ever know how Mrs. Mallard really felt towards her husband or how liberated she felt in the hour she thought he was permanently gone. The doctors only assume she felt joy seeing her husband alive as opposed to how she truly felt. Shock, grave disappointment, and her troubled heart were the right things needed to cause her heart to fail. No one will ever know the emotional changes Mrs. Mallard goes through in just an hour. In just an hour, Mrs. Mallard had seen freedom and lost it. Her death meant the end of a repressed life but the doctors interpreted it as love for her husband. It is ironic that she dies when she just starts to ‘live’. On experiencing just a moment of freedom, she cannot bear to live another moment where she is not living for herself.
Mrs. Mallard is a round character in “The Story Of Hour” as her state of mind is inconsistent throughout the story. She is sad at first when she receives the news about her husband, then she is happy and excited about life, and finally, she dies a tragic death. The other characters are flat characters as they are consistent and simple.
The author of “The Story Of An Hour”, Kate Chopin, was a novelist and short-story writer. She was married to Oscar Chopin and had six children. He died and left her in serious debt. Kate Chopin only started writing after the death of her husband when she moved to live with her mother. The Story Of An Hour was written in 1894 and could be a reflection of what Kate Chopin experienced while she was a wife. Although the story was written in the 18th century, the experience is not exclusive to that century alone, there is still some truth to it in this century.
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