“The Story of the Hour”
Preliminary Theses: The character of Mrs. Mallard and the imagery used by Kate Chopin represents freedom for Mrs. Mallard, which was important from a cultural viewpoint during a time period when women were considered second class to their male counterparts. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin portrays a woman, Mrs. Louise Mallard, as a frail person initially devastated by the news of her husband’s passing. However, upon contemplation of what life now holds ahead for her, Mrs. Mallard realizes the greatest gift her husband has given her is her independence.
Chopin’s imagery detail enables the reader to feel the story coming alive with the details ranging from sight, sound, and even smell. Throughout the story Chopin allows a reader to view the atmosphere as Louise experiences it herself and even though this is a short story the audience is able to be captivated by Chopin’s writing style. Chopin’s attitude towards Mrs. Mallard is one of intrigue and admiration. Louise shows spirit in the fact that her husband will not be returning home.
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To Louise, her newfound strength shows she will survive on her own and be stronger for it. The interpretation of Mrs. Mallard in the opening of “The Story of an Hour” is of a weak woman. Mrs. Mallard has a heart condition which incapacitates her character during the story. When she hears the news of her husband’s death Chopin asserts, “[s]he wept at once, with wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” (150). This suggests her weakness in that she needed the physical support of her sister’s arms to hold her up. However as the story progresses and she goes upstairs Mrs.
Mallard is portrayed as a strong woman; “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” explains Chopin (150). With her new found strength Mrs. Mallard becomes Louise; she is no longer referred to by her husband’s name because she is becoming her own person. She is breaking apart from the reference of her husband’s name. Louise continues to sit alone upstairs and ponders her newborn strength while looking out the window. Chopin’s rich imagery used in the story is the very representation of Louise’s newfound freedom.
Chopin asserts “[s]he could see in the open space before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (150). The use of the term “new spring” is indicative of Louise’s new freedom which comes from the realization that her husband is gone. Spring is the season after a harsh cold winter and one gets the sense that the oppression Louise felt while being married was like a harsh winter. Chopin also mentions the clear blue sky in the story a few times; which is symbolic of Louise being able to see clearly for the first time and realizing that she is no longer repressed or bond by her husband.
She will be a free spirit and live and die as an independent person; unbounded from the suffocation her husband brought upon her. In those days a wife was at the background while the husband was the head of household and made all the decisions. Women were considered second class citizens and did not have a voice; their main role was to tend to the husband’s needs and to care for the children. Women were also expected to respect the men and to not interject their opinions too loudly around the men. Louise longs for freedom from the oppression that marriage posed. Free! Body and soul free! ” proclaims Louise (151). It was not that Louise did not love her husband; she did, but she longed for freedom and an unburdened life. She would not be able to obtain that while married during this time period. I believe Louise loved her husband but during that time period a woman was bond by her duties to her family. Women were expected to obey the men and dare not question the man’s authority. Since women were considered second rate citizens they did not hold much value in a man’s eye.
When Louise’s husband died she had the expected reaction, she cried and felt remorse. But she also had insight during her deep thought while she sat alone upstairs and realized she was no longer bond by a spouse. Then, when Bentley Mallard walked through the door at the end of the story and Louise died, it was not just that she had a weak heart. I believe even in her death she had the freedom she desired. So ultimately, Louise was still granted her release from the confined life she lived while married to Bentley Mallard.