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Can women and men be their own person. Are husbands and wives able to be independent and follow their dreams in the institution of marriage. Kate Chopin poses this question in her short story The Story of an hour . Kate was born in 1851. Her parents were French Cajun, religious, and rich slave-owners. With Kate s father killed by a train accident, she is raised by her mother and grandmother until she graduates High School from a Catholic Private School. She marries a couple years later to a Louisiana businessman. She has many children and after she is married a little over a decade her husband dies. She begins to write several years later and receives nationwide attention almost immediately for her fiction. Kate Chopin writes The Story of an Hour to take up issues of equality and individualism in marriage by using theme and symbolism.
The theme presented in the story is one of personal assertion. The main character is presented as Mrs. Mallard in the beginning of the story and eventually becomes Louise. Louise is presented as an individual separate from her husband. The message of equality in marriage is throughout Louise s thoughts as she is locked in her room looking out her window. She thinks about her husband s future funeral, she will probably mourn again, but she is set free from her husband s regulations and powerful opinions and desires twisting her own. There would be no powerful will bending her in the blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature (Chopin 734). Chopin shows she is not only speaking on behalf of women in marriage but also men. Chopin expresses through her character Louise, men and women should respect one another in marriage. If a husband or a wife requires an act of service from one another, he or she should not manipulate or expect his or her spouse to do what he or she says no matter what. Chopin states through the thoughts of Louise, A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act [bending someone s will to your own] seem no less a crime (734). Wives do not need dictators in their marriage and men do not need emotional plagues in their marriage. Men and women should respect one another and respect each other s choices.
Symbolism in the story paints a picture of freedom, living life, and daring to dream. The spring scene with the smell of rain in the air, clouds piling up only to expose a few areas of blue sky depicts to the reader the clouds of grief are passing and the nice days are in view. Every person who has lived remotely long knows after a storm, gray clouds scatter and patches of baby blue sky are seen signaling the storm is over. Innumerable sparrows are chirping on the rooftops representing happiness, a carefree behavior, and freedom to fly where ever they desire. With the entire flock of sparrows gathering together on the rooftops, Chopin is communicating social behavior which speaks to Louise of freedom to assemble with other women or men whenever she wants to. Freedom to choose. Sparrows on the roof are in high places, their natural habitat, instead of the ground, an unnatural habitat. Louise is like a bird caged when her husband is alive, but as soon as she believes herself a widow she is set free like the birds on the rooftops are free. A person singing helps to open her guarded heart and mind and show her how she feels about herself and her life. Song is a powerful force against her will and it overpowers her own efforts to push back her sub consciousness. Someone singing is the key to releasing her subconscious thoughts into her conscious thoughts. The window in Louise s room is the opening to what her life could be. The portal to the future whispers freedom to her from the other side.
A little over half a century after Kate Chopin died she was rediscovered as a feminist writer, writing about issues ahead of her time. Her story depicts a negative picture of marriage in the Victorian Age. Chopin s illustration of women expressing their own wishes, needs, and opinions are not accepted as moral behavior for women in the 1890 s. Noted by Barbara C. Ewell in her book, Kate Chopin, the editor of a magazine called Century refused to publish the short story because of the theme of equality for women with men (267). Independence for women and the individual thoughts of women were only imagined privately in society. A woman was expected to take care of the house, children, and live for her husband. Because of women like Kate Chopin, most women have the privilege of equality in marriage and in society.
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