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The short-story under consideration by Kate Chopin, the American short-story writer known for her works about strong women in terms of liberation debate, is entitled “The Story of an Hour”. Being the framing sign of the whole text, the title brings the text up to date, however, running through the entire plot it does not uncover the essence of the unpredictable situation the main character finds herself. It is a sign of prosecution and forms the expectations about what the story may deal with. a lot is hidden beyond the title but only having read the short-story it becomes clear that it describes an hour of true free life of a wife, Louise Mallard, who was dominated by her husband Brently Mallard and could break free from the “imprisonment” only after her husband had perished in a railroad disaster. The theme of the short-story is definitely connected with the future Liberation movement that was already on the way and promised the long-awaited equality.
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The analysis of the short-story under consideration is carried out in the light of the Lacanian structuralism who in his psychoanalysis reconceptualised Freud using post-structuralism. Kate Chopin enables readers to trace the widow’s mind working and the way it is influenced with sadness and joy. The readers distinctly feel the shift of tone in the narration as Mrs. Millard breaks through her conscious storm of grief that caught her immediately as she heard the news. Her first and adequate reaction of mind is weeping, Chopin says: “she wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment”. Everyone knew that she suffered from a heart disease and were very careful and tender to do the least harm to her fragile heart. It seems that her oppressed will obeys the established system of society and she expresses her feelings structured by the desire and expectations of others, through the “relay” of her surroundings. The reason of that may lie in the fact that human-beings are social creatures and their desire also has social nature that is developed through culture and language, the former structured like the unconscious.
But then she abruptly calms down and sits in her room enjoying the view from the window: “The delicious breath of rain was in the airâ€¦The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves”. At the moment the sound consciousness that cannot help but feel regret about the perished husband makes the way for physical exhaustion “that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul”. Here Kate Chopin describing the unconscious through the symbols introduces readers the image of nature seen from out of the window of Louise’s room. The season itself, the springtime, symbolizing the new life the advantages of which she is still has not realized yet, and the window giving her the view of “patches of blue sky”, all this is definitely a new world that appears before Mrs. Mallard.
The expression of the unconscious comes through symbols and readers see her motionless with her dull stare transformed into a gaze fixed away off yonder on the patches of sky symbolizing her future. She feels that something is approaching to posses her interrupting her bitter grief, that is the feeling of freedom that she never new before. And as according to Lacan, “the unconscious is structured like a language”, Louise’s eyes become keen and bright and she utters under the breath: “Free, free, free!”
Louise did not cry herself to sleep as a child usually does, it was her unconscious desire to live a full life of beautiful images that lost its bright colors as her husband dominated her. Her conscious ego comes into clashes with her unconscious desire to gain freedom and live for herself. And the momentous joy that seizes her is the expression of her unconscious mind.
Lacan substantiated the connections of binary oppositions that became central to structuralism. They can be noticed in the short-story as a system of interrelated signs that make up the whole. In the text under consideration the binary oppositions are male and female, joy and grief, love and self-assertion. The last opposition is ironically described by Kate Chopin, as the main character thinks that she loved her husband sometimes and adds that “often she had not”. She reasons “what could love count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion” that is a strong impulse for her to go on. She may have drawn a line to summarize what she lacked and longed for and realized that she deserves freedom and there would be no powerful will bending, no repression and restrictions imposed on her by the society of the time. Mrs. Mallard, though it is a kind of paradox, could feel so free and protected only after her husband’s death and was joyously “drinking in a very elixir of life through the open window”.
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But the fate offers her another surprise bringing her husband alive and when he enters the house as nothing has happened her heart cannot bear the excitement and fails. Though no one of those present can guess the true cause of death, Louise dies of a heart attack as she instantly realizes that her hopes are broken against the shores of reality. Her family friends call it “the joy that kills”. Actually, she appeared to feel free only temporarily, but she was free only from the burden of marriage that repressed her, but the complete freedom is nothing but an illusion as it doubtfully exists.
Viewing the short-story from the perspective of post-structuralism definitely has some drawbacks, as it propagates the ambivalence of meaning and upset link of the text and the real world. Rejecting the certainty of meaning it may result in thousands of free interpretations that put the readers on the wrong track. Therefore, analyzing the short-story in the light of structuralism is quite beneficial and helps to reveal through symbols the mental state of the main character with the unconscious dominating the conscious ego. It cannot help but catch the eye of the readers that Kate Chopin intentionally concentrates her narration on description of the mental state of the heroine and the signs that uncover it, paying little attention either to her appearance or to the interior and clothes. Structuralism developed by Lacan helps readers to have a good look through a magnifying glass of his postulates on the mental state of Mrs. Mallard and ponder over the reasons of her behavior concealed in the symbols.
The short-story “The Story of an Hour” is of inspirational and though-provoking character that can hardly leave readers unmoved.
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