Self-Identity, Freedom, and Death in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” The story of an hour by Kate Chopin introduces us to Mrs. Mallard as she reacts to her husband’s death. In this short story, Chopin portrays the complexity of Mrs. Mallard’s emotions as she is saddened yet joyful of her loss. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” argues that an individual discover their self-identity only after being freed from confinement. The story also argues that freedom is a very powerful force that affects mental or emotional state of a person. The story finally argues that only through death can one be finally freed.
Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” argues that an individual discover their self-identity only after being freed from confinement. The confinement Mrs. Mallard had been experiencing was immediately replaced by her joyful discovery of self-identity. She was overwhelmed with joy since “there would be no one to live for during the coming years” (Chopin 281) and “she would only live for herself” (Chopin 281). Mrs. Mallard wept immediately after finding out about her husband’s death. She wept until she was alone in the privacy of her room; alone with her thoughts, she felt joyous.
She was undergoing a step of self-discovery. She was not weeping entirely for her husband; it was also a way for her to release whatever she was feeling inside. As a result, she was filled with joy knowing that all the future years to come will be all for her entirely. As soon as Mrs. Mallard had finally attained her identity she expresses that finally there would be no “powerful will bending hers” (Chopin 281) and debunks the “blind persistence that men and women have the right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin 281).
Subsequently, the remarks expressed are an indication of the sense of relief she experiences from her husband’s death. Furthermore, she unchained herself from the confinement she had experienced beforehand not just within her marriage but to the social belief that anyone can bend someone else’s will. Based on the insights on Mrs. Mallard’s discovery of her self-identity, we can conclude that people who have been confined for too long are robbed of their self-hood. The restraining of one’s self-hood can be defined by whomever or whatever is inding their will. It is also evident that one can only achieve their true self when they are released from confinement. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” also argues that freedom is a very powerful force that affects the mental or emotional state of a person. The mental and emotional state Mrs. Mallard had experienced had been a peculiar one. The sense of freedom came to her as an unfamiliar feeling that perhaps she had long forgotten as she was deprived of it for a long time.
The strangeness of what she was feeling made her think that there was “something coming to her […] creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her” (Chopin 281) implying a confused mental state. This unfamiliar feeling of joy she is experiencing could be only one thing, the ecstasy of being free. It had been playing with her mind. The overpowering thoughts of freedom are so peculiar to her that she doesn’t recognize it and she doesn’t know how to emotionally react to it. Through this unfamiliarity her mental state went rampant with fear thinking that it is a force of horror that was out to harm her.
After a moment of resenting this feeling, Mrs. Mallard finally abandons her fight to “beat it back” (Chopin 281). She lets it possess her entirely. To be finally “Free, body and soul free” (Chopin 281). Mrs. Mallard finally asserts her freedom from her dead husband. She was drawn to this feeling that she wouldn’t care even seeing her husband’s dead body. Additionally, she developed a sense of ecstasy as she regains her freedom and the hope to regain her stolen years as well. Therefore, in analyzing Mrs.
Mallard’s mental and emotional state, we can conclude that we forget to recognize our own freedom during long years of confinement. But as we regain and accept this unfamiliar feeling we lose touch of even the most powerful emotions that we feel for the people around us, living or dead. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” finally argues that only through death can one be finally freed. The death of Mrs. Mallard’s husband, Brently Mallard, has proven to be beneficial for her. Through this she finally finds her self-identity and her freedom.
Unlike most widows who would weep for their husband Mrs. Louise Mallard felt a sense of relief from his death. She described it as a “monstrous joy” (Chopin 281), but shrugs the idea since her freedom and escape, perhaps from an unhappy marriage, is certain now that her husband is dead. Evidently joyous of her newfound freedom she goes downstairs to find “Brently Mallard who entered […] far from the scene of accident” unscathed (Chopin 281). The shock of seeing her husband cheat death was too much for Louise and it killed her.
She died of heart disease, the “joy that kills” (Chopin 282). Consequently, the fact that Louise Mallard had a pre-existing condition of “trouble in the heart” (Chopin 280) did not help when she saw her husband alive. Louise Mallard could not handle the news that the newfound freedom she attained was a mere lie and false pretense; moreover her death, was not from the joy of seeing her husband alive, but from the shock that she has to go back to her old life. In conclusion, based on Louise Mallard’s death, we can assume that from the beginning she was destined to die.
She wasn’t willing to lose her identity and her newfound freedom only to be bended on her marriage once more. The only way for her to finally escape her marriage was for her to die. This tells us that mortality is the ultimate escape to bondage or whatever pain that we will experience. I will now sum up my main points; Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” tackles a wide array of thematic statements. The story argues that it is a natural trait for an individual to try and find true self-identity. In this case, Louise Mallard had to get rid of her husband indirectly before she could find her own self-hood.
The story also argues that freedom and independence far exceed even love. True to this was Louise Mallard’s thirst for independency and the exhilarating reaction she had as she lets it possess her entirely. Through this she valued herself more importantly than her sorrow for her husband’s death. The story finally argues that death was the only way for Louise to escape her marriage with Brently and finally gain her freedom. The story opens letting the readers know of Mrs. Mallard’s “trouble in the heart” (Chopin 280) foreshadowing the end.
Louise was not willing to lose her newfound freedom, and as a last resort her shock finally kills her knowing that in only this way she could finally be free of perhaps bondage within her marriage. Lastly, it is important to analyze the themes of particular stories to find out the historical context behind it. This story was written in the time where women were unequal with men; through the themes presented it is equally important to know that these events might be a cycle and thus warns us to never let it happen again.
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