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The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin talks about how Mrs. Louise Mallard handled the situation when she learned about her husband's death. Mrs. Mallard is a young and attractive woman. It starts off when Richards, a friend of the Mallard couple, receives a report from a newspaper that Brently Mallard was among of the list of those who were killed in the train accident. When Richards gets the news, he tells Josephine, Louise's sister, about the misfortune that happened. Because of the serious heart condition of Louise, Josephine carefully hands down the breath-taking news to her sister. Later, Mrs. Mallard grieves for her husband's tragedy and goes up to her room. Being alone inside the room, she sobs and sits down on a comfortable armchair facing the open window. Because of her emotional and mental exhaustion reaching into her sorrowful soul, she gazes out the windowpane. Like a naive little child, she looks at the trees and listens to the twittering of the sparrows. She is motionless. Suddenly, an unexpected reaction interrupts her grief; there is something unusual building up inside her. The thought of being "free" conquers her mind, the liberty of doing what she pleases without her husband's consent. She whispers to herself, "Free! Free!" She wonders the blissful revelry that awaits her future being an independent woman. With her excitement, she opens the door of her room and goes down the stairs. However, just as Richards is standing and waiting downstairs, someone approaches the front door and unlocks it with a latchkey. Surprisingly, it was Brently Mallard who entered, without any scratch or injury. While Richards screens Brently from the view of his wife, he questions the outwardly cry of Josephine. Soon after, the doctors conclude that Mrs. Mallard's death is a result from the heart disease she was suffering, "the joy that kills".
Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour is one of her famous literary works where it exemplifies a rich and deeper sense of reality. Chopin published this story in 1894 wherein there were social and cultural thoughts running in the community especially against the women. The reader notices the well-formed symbolisms, the real-life themes, the magnificent figures of speech, and the sad irony being shown in the story. The Story of an Hour portrays the impression of Mrs. Louise Mallard as being a transforming difference and illustrates the repression of women in a male-dominated society where they were being treated unequally in the late 19th century.
The setting of the story takes place in a typical American home in the springtime during the late 19th century. It was entitled "The Story of an Hour" because it only covers only an hour in Mrs. Mallard's life when she learned the death of her husband and the unexpected turning of events. The setting is also used as a symbolism. Chopin expresses Mrs. Mallard's room as a sanctuary, a room for those who seek refuge despite of their terrible distress. As being described in paragraph 5, the room is like a place for reflection. Because of the spring season, Louise's "awakening" signifies the rebirth of the nature. When she is troubled with misery, raindrops fall from the sky. But when she notices her freedom, the skies clear up. Whatever changes take place outside the window mirrors to the feelings of Louise.
The metaphoric representation of the window shows the bright opportunities that lie ahead her for the future. The areas of clouds represent the diverse characteristics of her marriage relationship with Brently. The heavy clouds are the jagged times with her husband when she felt uneasy, abused, or depressed. On the other hand, the peaking blue skies mean the taking away of oppression. It states the surfacing of her new life as a free woman. The atmosphere clearly shows us the incoming transformation that will happen at the end of the story. The narration of the story is from a third-person limited point of view. The readers are able to access the mind of the character, knowing their thoughts that reveal the character.
Several symbolisms are portrayed in this story. One of its symbolisms is the comfortable armchair where it signifies a feeling of comfort and wellness. More importantly, the chair is facing an open window which clearly symbolizes as Mrs. Mallard being ready to amend. The singing of the birds symbolizes the realization she is undergoing where she is free from the oppressive rule of her husband. It symbolizes her weakening state or in other words, her second-rate importance in a male-dominated society. It further explains the line, "There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature". The description of Mrs. Mallard as being "young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression" symbolizes the purity and loveliness of a child so as to the line, "And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not". In the whole story, Mrs. Mallard's heart situation does not only refer to her physical condition but also with the emotional state, a dilemma both within her body and with her relationship to Brently. It represents her mixed feelings toward her marriage and lack of freedom. At the end of the story, it concludes that Louise dies from a heart disease and it seems an appropriate diagnosis. Conversely speaking, Louise passes away due to a broken heart because of the immediate loss of independence.
This short story has a different style of writing where it shows a foreshadowing of the events that might happen. On the first paragraph, the opening sentence of the story gives us the idea that Mrs. Mallard's heart condition plays a major factor on the outcome of the plot. Furthermore, it strengthens how the story ended and makes it credible. Without this description, the ending would seem doubtful.
During the late 19th century, society expects women to take care of the house. Generally, employers show prejudice to women by hiring them only for tedious jobs. Women are not being granted the privilege to prove their capacity that they can do things what men can also do. The theme of The Story of an Hour is Individuality where the issue of female self-discovery comes out. It further stresses out that once married, the husband has the right to own and dominate his wife. When Mrs. Mallard learns about the death of her husband, she was in grief although she starts to feel the sense of freedom. In the line, "There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully", it shows that she is scared of her new beginning, the unknown feelings taking control over her. As she speaks out the words, "free, free, free", it is commonly described as having neglected herself for a long time. The moment she feels ease, she visualizes and embraces the life without her husband. The extreme contentment of Mrs. Mallard is very powerful that when she apprehends the fact that her husband is still alive, her heart condition immediately disrupts her life causing her to die. Because of this, Louise cannot desert her "newfound freedom" and stay with her husband where she would be obliged to obey his will.
Chopin's story uses a unique style of writing called irony, an incongruity and discordance to the truth. In the conclusion of the story, the physicians reveal that the weak state of her heart gave up leading to such delight and relief. However, the irony of the story's ending is that Mrs. Mallard actually dies from the loss of joy, seeing his husband alive. The thought of Brently being dead gives her a glance of a "new life" although the disbelief and disappointment of that "new life" being removed kills her.
Woodlief, Ann M.. "The Story of an Hour". Computers and the Study of Literature. January 24, 2010 <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/>.
SparkNotes Editors. "SparkNote on The Story of an Hour." SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2007. Web. 24 January. 2010.