In “The Story of an Hour” the narration presents a view of a young wife who, upon receiving news of her husband’s death, experiences a shifting conflict of emotions. The author interprets the suspension of the character’s passive stoicism, briefly illuminating a future without restraints. It is revealed immediately in the narrative that the young woman has “a heart trouble” (Chopin 542).
Her sister, Josephine, and her husband’s friend, Richard, took “great care” (Chopin 542) in telling her of his demise. The character did not react in a typical fashion “with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance,” (Chopin 542) but wept violently and then fled to the solitude of her room. The reader could possibly interpret this to mean that she lived in a state of perpetual hope of freedom. Upon the unexpected knowledge of this freedom, she very quickly began to process her responses in an atypical manner in order to come to an imminent revelation.
It is in her room that the author begins to open up the story from a factual account of events into a panoramic view of the character’s emotional state. First, by use of a window, there is painted for the reader, a vivid description of the outside world. The character begins to perceive the “open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (Chopin 542). The reader should note that the author uses spring as a symbol to introduce a shift in the dynamic of the character’s awareness of her freedom to begin anew.
She then notes the sky had “patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds” (Chopin 542). The sky represents the boundless nature of freedom and the human spirit. They are a precursor to which the new reality the character is being introduced. Upon perceiving this outside world, beyond the window, the character “sits motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep” (Chopin 542) and we are given a more detailed description of the character’s expression and demeanor.
She is described as “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke oppression and even a certain strength” (Chopin 542). It is then that this young wife perceives the approach of a revelation “too subtle and elusive to name” (Chopin 542). The imagery of the lines “two white slender hands” (Chopin 543) and “child who has cried itself to sleep” (Chopin 542) denote a certain lady-like gentility and helplessness about her. There is a cognition that this revelation is the antithesis of what a lady should feel as she was “striving to beat it back with her will” (Chopin 543).
The character seems to be conflicted within herself as to how to process the revelation of the sudden unburdening of her marital status. The shifting plot takes a turn when “she abandoned herself” (Chopin 543) to wild emotions. Her rich inner life sprung forth as “a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips” (Chopin 543). Described as a “monstrous joy,” (Chopin 543) she exulted in her freedom. ““Free! Body and soul free! ” she kept whispering” (Chopin 543). There is a negative view of marriage implied in the whole body of the thematic illumination Louise experiences in her epiphany.
It was upon her assertion that she was indeed free that the author began to call the young wife by the name “Louise” (Chopin 543). Until that point, she was referred to as “Mrs. Mallard” (Chopin 542) or “she” (Chopin 542-543) and her identity was summed up in her husband’s name or a generic title. The reader can imagine that the husband loved his wife in the unemotionally stated lines “the kind, tender hands folded in death” (Chopin 543) and “the face that had never looked save with love upon her” (Chopin 543).
However, she was able to see past those moments of impending grief “beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin 543). It would be possible for the reader to perceive the character of Louise as selfish and even unfeeling about her husband’s untimely death. The author expresses the assertion that marriage, even to someone that may be a loving spouse, can be too great of a bending of the will “A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination” (Chopin 543).
The act of marriage is denounced “There would be no powerful will bending her in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature” (Chopin 543). It is, also, probable that the character may have had an arranged marriage. Though the man she married may be kind and well meaning, it was neither her intention nor her desire to be in love. It was simply an expectation that she should be married, and so she was. Love is not the founding element on which happiness is derived “”And yet she loved him-sometimes.
Often she had not. What did it matter? ” (Chopin 543). She counted her freedom as “the strongest impulse of her being” (Chopin 543). The language used to describe the characters feelings toward her surroundings; husband and marriage are unemotional, direct “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair” (Chopin 542). There is no flowery prose or descriptive language to describe the interior of the house. It is only the view through the window and when describing her rich emotional responses that the author’s prose begins a vivid outpouring of emotion.
She was called forth from this protective womb of emotion by her sister, in hopes of protecting her from herself “-you will make yourself ill” (Chopin 543). She came forth reborn, victorious, a goddess “she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (Chopin 543). The reader could ascertain that the victorious status of the character’s emotions is a lead into the ironic twist. She finds a moment of victory only to pay for it in an ultimate fashion. Upon descending the stairs with her sister, Louise finds her husband entering the shared home through the front door.
Obviously, her view through the window gave her no precognition of his imminent arrival. The window was a view into her innermost thoughts and feelings and not into solid reality. Just before leaving her room, she had “breathed a quick prayer that life might be long” (Chopin 543). Her husband had been nowhere near the scene of the accident that had been acclaimed to have taken his life. He had no knowledge of the scene that was taking place at home. The story begins with the knowledge that Louise has “heart trouble” (Chopin 542).
Ironically, it is this same “heart disease” (Chopin 543) that claims the years that, earlier, she, in abandon “spread her arms out to them in welcome” (Chopin 543). Had she not had this epiphany, would she have been able to open her arms to her husband? The reader might wonder if the husband would experience the same feelings upon the death of his wife. “The Story of an Hour” explores the nature of a human being to arch away from the restraints created to bind freedom. Louise experiences this illumination of freedom and glories in it.
It is because of this brief illumination, and the shock of its loss, that her life is snuffed out. In one hour, Kate Chopin allows the reader to view the inner turmoil of a heart released from “that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature” (Chopin 543) and the breaking of that heart when it is once again eclipsed.