While many stories are written on the topic of love, Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette’s “The Hand” present a different aspect of love and marriage in subtle and unique ways. These two short stories represent a female perspective about the how love is not present in marriage, attraction fades, and that marriage truly is an institution. Both stories represent these aspects similarly.
In “Story of an Hour” Chopin represents love not as the foundation of a marriage, but as something that occurs off and on during the course of a marriage. Mrs. Mallard reflects on her feelings for her husband shortly after learning of his death, “She had loved him – sometimes. Often she had not”. Mrs. Mallard further goes on to decide that it doesn’t matter how she felt about her husband in terms of “love, the unsolved mystery” . When it comes to attraction, Mrs. Mallard seems to have none for her husband, except a recollection that he was not a cruel man, “she saw the kind tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her”. She seems more attracted – almost orgasmically to the concept of freedom from her marriage, which she seems to view as something equal to prison, “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have the right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” .
In “The Hand”, Colette paints a picture of a love that is immature or lacking altogether. The concept of love and marriage seem to be what the female character in this story is in love with. She is uncertain about love, but knows duty. What the young bring seems to be in love with is the ideal of marriage. she is two weeks in to her marriage, and we do learn that she was initially attracted to her husband, “a handsome, blond young man” , but she reflects on her new surroundings with just as much adoration, “she still kept her eyes closed for a long time, then opened them again in order to savor, with astonishment, the blue of the brand – new curtains”. Her attraction to her husband soon fades, “And I’ve kissed that hand!…How horrible! Haven’t’ I ever looked at it?”. The bride, still a child, views marriage as the “scandalous life of a newlywed who tastes the joys of living with someone unknown” , but quickly, in one night, her concept of marriage changes to one of duty and resignation, “She concealed her fear, bravely subdued herself, and beginning her life of duplicity, of resignation, and of a lowly, delicate diplomacy, she leaned over and humbly kissed the monstrous hand” .
In these two essays, love is portrayed as temporary, something that can come and go, and something that is not always reserved for humans. Mrs. Mallard is in love with the concept of freedom, and the young bride in “The Hand” is in love with her new surroundings. Attraction fades and is not necessary at all for marriage. It is but a skewed perception in a moment of weakness. Marriage is portrayed as an condition similar to imprisonment; there is no way to make it through but to submit and hope for an end.
- Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature 5th ed. Michael Meyer, ed. Bedford: Boston. 2000. 10-12.
- Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle. “The Hand.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature 5th ed. Michael Meyer, ed. Bedford: Boston. 2000. 196-198.