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In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, the author examines a wife's true feelings about her husband. The main character, Louise Mallard, experiences a wide range of emotions after hearing the tragic news of her husband's death in a railroad disaster (para.3). When there are unknown factors in a marital relationship, no one can truly know how a person feels about their spouse behind closed doors. People tend to portray themselves different in public than they do in private.
The public display of grief can have a veiled interpretation if the reader does not analyze it carefully. At the beginning of the story, the typical reaction of most women to such news is in contradiction to what Louise is feeling inside: "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms" (Para. 3). The author implies that most women would not totally understand the long term consequences of the tragic news; however, Louise understands the seemingly grave situation and plays the part of the grieving widow convincingly. She may have the feeling of grief for her husband, but deep within her soul, that is not the case. She must be deceptive in public until she can sit and contemplate her new reality.
The second public display of emotions occurs at the end of the story, and it is also misinterpreted by the observers of the event. This misinterpreted reaction to the sight of her presumed dead husband makes everyone feel as if her heart could not take the overwhelming happiness of seeing her husband alive: "When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease - of joy that kills" (Para. 23). No one thinks that her reaction to seeing him alive is anything less than happiness. This is society's paradigm to how a person should feel about another because there is no evidence present to make them think otherwise. Why wouldn't a wife be so excited to see her husband back from the grave? As far as others may know, everything within the Mallard's household is just fine.
Her private emotions are much more intriguing because they represent what she knows to be the appropriate reaction and how it conflicts with the way she really feels. One such event displays this conflict and the fight going on within her soul to suppress it: "She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will - as powerless as her two white hands would have been" (Para. 10). She tries to conform to the typical reaction of most grievers, but the fight takes a toll on her. She knows that she shouldn't be experiencing the feelings of happiness and relief. How can she hide this from everyone? The answer is obvious, she can't.
When a loved one passes away, a person tends to remember the good things about that person and will reflect on their life without them with great regret and sorrow, but this is not the case between Louise and her husband. In her room alone, she welcomes her life without him because of the burdens he put upon her while he was alive, and now, those burdens are removed from her life forever: "Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long" (Para. 19). She is no longer concerned with what he thinks she should do or how she should do it because it stifled her independence. Her newfound freedom is her main focus and she understands that her life will be much happier if she could think about herself and how she will live her life. Independence is what most people want. Without it, a person cannot maintain their sanity and their motivation to live because someone else will be telling them what, when, and how to do things. That is no way for anyone to live their life.
"The Story of an Hour" shows a widow's wide range of emotions and tackles hard to define concepts on what a person should feel towards a loved one who has experienced a tragic event. The author takes the reader through the reactions of Louise, the main character, in public venues and how she contradicts those public emotions when in private. This speaks to the mental state of a person who has been burdened for so many years by the person they love without anyone noticing or inquiring. The emotions displayed in public are deceptive because of the need to maintain the loving household perception that everyone believes to be true. However, in private, the struggle against traditional feelings are taking place and are overwhelming Louise to the point where she gives up the fight and embraces her new reality without her husband.