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The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

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Being written by Kate Chopin in 1894, “The Story of an Hour” describes hour from the life of Louise Mallard, a woman with heart trouble, immediately after receiving news of her husband’s death. Despite the traditional perceptions of loss experience associated with grief and sorrow, Chopin’s heroine has a moment of relief realizing the freedoms achieved, which were taken from her by an unhappy marriage. During the final minutes of the hour, Mrs.

Mallard is psychologically ruined as he sees her husband walks through the front door alive and well, and it causes her to have a heart attack and die.

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While her family believes she had a heart attack because she was overjoyed, the author leads the audience to conclude that the heart attack was actually caused by her realization that the freedoms she looked forward too were no longer a reality.The story is very well written as it flows from one paragraph to another each presenting a new idea or information for the reader.

The story begins by informing readers that Louise’s husband, Brently Mallard, was killed in a railroad disaster.

Being that Louise has a heart condition, her family was concerned with how she would react to the bad news. Her sister, Josephine, broke the news to her. She immediately cried as expected but the interesting part of the story is when she goes into her room and locks the door. While Mrs.

Mallard is slouched in a chair her experience doesn’t feel that tragic at all. The mood is rather peaceful and relaxing. The reader is reminded more of a sunny day than a gloomy sky. At this point it is almost confusing but Kate Chopin quickly explains the scenario.

She explains of a feeling the main character feels approaching. It is then explained that Louise feels “free” (Chopin, 315) as a result of her husband’s death. Audience learns that there is no feeling of guilt whatsoever in this moment.As we stroll through the short paragraphs we see how this feeling of joy becomes greater as she expresses it more through her body, mind, and her words.

Her pulse was beating faster and this actually relaxed her. She envisioned what her life was going to be like in the future now that she was on her own and all the visions were of happiness and freedom. She whispered words to herself about her freedom in order to embrace the reality through the sounds of her own voice. Though she came across a couple of moments that suggested she loved her husband dearly and he was a kind man, her feeling of joy obviously overpowered her memories of having loved her husband.

She completely recognized the strong possibilities of crying over her husband’s death in the future, yet nothing could ruin the beautiful future she felt was in store for her.During Louise’s experience in her room, Josephine was kneeling on the other side of the door begging for Louise to unlock and open it. Josephine was concerned that her sister was stressing herself and it would have negative effects due to her heart problem. Eventually Louise does open the door and walks out with her sister towards the stairs.

To everybody’s surprise, Brently Mallard walks in the house through the front door. During this moment Josephine yells out while Richard, who is Brently’s brother, rushed to cover him from his wife’s view in order to keep her from having a heart attack from the shock of seeing her husband was alive. Richard did not achieve this as Louise Mallard had died of a heart attack due to her heart disease. As Daniel Deneau indicates “Louise Mallard receives a great shock, goes through a rapid sequence of reactions, is in a sense awakened and then seems to drink in ‘a very elixir of life,’ and finally receives another shock, a reversal, which proves lethal (Deneau, 210).

There may be several explanations given as to why Mrs. Mallard reaction caused her death. What was the real reason she had a heart attack? The “obvious” and probably the easiest answer is simply that she was shocked as if she had seen a ghost. We can go a simple step beyond that and say that a wife who realizes her husband is alive after the thought of his death is filled with such a joy that a troubled heart could not handle.

Both of these reasons are very possible, yet the details of this hour suggest there is a different reason for Louise’s heart attack. The narrative reveals in several ways that her husband’s death was a positive turn in her life that she was actually excited about. Once she saw her husband alive, it destroyed her future of freedom and happiness she had looked so forward to, which her heart could not handle.The scene in her bedroom provides us with proof of the mood Louise was in immediately after the news of her husband’s death.

The following, which is excerpted from the story, clearly paints a peaceful picture as Mrs. Mallard looks out of her window: “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. The notes of a distant song which someone was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Chopin 315).

This immediately suggests Louise was not feeling rage of any sort. The author proceeds to tell us about a specific feeling that comes over Mrs. Mallard. She whispered the words under her breath, “Free, free, free!” (Chopin, 315) She began to welcome this feeling and thought about the unfairness of marriage, which suggests to us that she was very unhappy in her marriage, which results in her feeling of freedom from not belonging to a marriage anymore.

The author uses one sentence in particular which shows us that Louise’s love for her husband paled in comparison to the joy of her newfound freedom: “What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!” (Chopin, 315) This is eventually followed by a description of Louise by the author as she opened the door to her sister on the other side: “There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (Chopin, 315).  However, the line “a feverish triumph in her eyes” also deployed by the author to indicate another significant point. From the critical point of view, Kate Chopin employs various ways to depict the theme of women’s oppression both in family and society.  Throughout the story, Chopin’s heroine has no identity.

Her first name is revealed to the audience after hearing the news of the train wreck. In all the previous lines a reader only knew of her as Mrs. Mallard but when her husband returns she is again renamed without an identity and called “his wife” (Chopin, 316).  Therefore, one can infer that Brently Mallard was a husband who was both controlling and oppressive to her since she is overwhelmed at her newfound happiness.

It seems that when Louise married him she lost all her will and identity, even her name is gone. It is as if she has become his property to sport to society and not a woman to love. When they married a certain part of her was gone and is regained when she learns he is dead.From the critical standpoint, Chopin’s short story evokes important debate: is Louise a normal, understandable, sympathetic woman, or is she an egocentric, selfish monster or anomaly? And, as more sophisticated readers may ask, is the degree of “self-assertion” or freedom that she thinks she has attained a real possibility in a world of normal human relationships? Practically, readers’ preconceptions about love and marriage and independence will form different answers to these questions.

At one crucial point, however, this relatively clear and realistic story becomes problematic, particularly the passage in which Chopin attempts to account for the direct cause of Louise’s awakening: “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air” (Chopin, 315).This “something,” which arrives from the sky, exerts a powerful physical influence on Louise and leaves her with a totally new perspective on her self and her place in the scheme of things.

In a limited space, and without the assistance of a psychological vocabulary, Chopin may have been forced to rely on the indefinite, the unidentified, which, as best the readers can judge, is some powerful force, something supernatural, something beyond the realm of mundane experience or the rule of logic (Mitchell, 61).  If immediately after learning of the death of her husband Louise had gone through a rapid logical process leading to a celebration of her total freedom, she might have seemed to be a hard, calculating, and therefore unsympathetic woman. Or to put the point in another way: since she has neither the physical nor moral strength to “beat …back” her attacker, which she begins to recognize but sadly never names, her responsibility is abrogated.  In addition, one of the problems presented by the passage is the fact that Louise meets the “something” with both fear and anticipation.

According to some literary critics this problematic passage indicates a fairly explicit description of a sexual union. One of the meanings of the verb “possesses” is” to have sexual intercourse with (a woman)” and “this meaning was certainly known to Chopin (Bender, 259). Moreover, the final sentence of the passage can be interpreted as evidence of a “sexual union”: Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body” (Chopin, 315). From the critical point of view, with no male aggressor-partner named in the text, only a “something,” critics naturally speculate on the concept of Christian nature.

The passage is about more than fear, force, and sex; it is also about anticipation, pleasure, and ultimately enlightenment.  Therefore, the audience is reminded of parallels with the Christian Holy Spirit, who is associated with conception, renewal, empowerment, inspiration, enlightenment, and freedom. Louise does indeed receive an infusion of knowledge from a source that seems beyond human understanding or even naming.From personal standpoint, Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is characterized with both simplicity and simultaneous complexity, particularly in terms of one curious passage.

Chopin’s desire to transform her protagonist from a woman with a “dull stare in her eyes” (315) to one with “a feverish triumph in her eyes,” a woman who carries “herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (316), required a force of exceptional intensity, a force as intense as visitation by the Holy Spirit. It is no wonder that in a mere seven sentences this force remains perplexing, probably enigmatic. One final point, however, is perfectly self-evident that having experimented with one very condensed account of an awakening – the account of a mere hour – Chopin later proceeded to create one of the masterpieces of American Literature – of Edna Pontellier. Works CitedBender, Bert.

“Kate Chopin’s Lyrical Short Stories.” Studies in Short Fiction 11, 1974, pp. 257-66.Chopin, Kate.

“The Story of an Hour.” Literature and Society: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction. Eds. Pamela J.

Annas and Robert C. Rosen. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000. pp.

313-316.Daniel Deneau “Chopin’s the Story of an Hour,” The Explicator, 61 no 4, Summer 2003, pp. 210-13.Mitchell, Angelyn.

“Feminine Double Consciousness in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour.”‘ CEA Magazine 5.1,1992, pp. 59-64. 

Cite this The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. (2017, Mar 24). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-story-of-an-hour-by-kate-chopin/

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