Written by Kate Chopin, The Story of an Hour is a short story that unveils the reaction of a woman, Mrs.Mallard, in response to receiving the news of her husband, Mr.Mallard’s death all within the span of an hour. Taking place in the late nineteenth century in the period of time where women had little to no voice nor social standing, Mrs.Mallard was no more than Mr.Mallard’s wife. Like other married women of her time, Mrs.Mallard remained home and tended to her husband. Up until she finds out about his death, we do not know much about Mrs.Mallard. It was not until the news of his death that we are given a piece of her identity. We learn that she is Louise Mallard. Towards the end of the story, we are told that “she uttered a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long “(Chopin 181). With this, we can only interpret her feelings toward her life before and after her realization of life following her husband’s death.
After receiving the news, Louise Mallard takes the news of her husband’s death and goes upstairs into her bedroom to gather her thoughts. Within her bedroom, an open window reviews trees and “patches of blue skies” (Chopin 6). Birds chirp and she speaks under her breath. “‘Free, free, free!’ The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes.” (Chopin 11) Louise feels a sudden change. Louise viewed her life with apprehension. She envisioned her life as nothing more than years of dullness while living under the shadow of her husband. The “shudder” she feels is of consternation for herself. Whereas one may dread the thought of living alone for the remainder of their life, the thought to Louise was enough reason to anticipate and become eager for the long life she now has ahead.
The open window symbolizes all the possibilities that have been opened for Louise Mallard. It was as if what had previously been weighing her down has been lifted. The blue skies and chirping birds emphasize a new beginning. The repetitive use of the word “open” emphasizes new possibilities in regards to the new life that she envisions for herself. Toward the end “She uttered a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long “(Chopin 181). Mrs.Mallard may have loved her husband but she did not love her life. She was restricted and limited to being no more than Mr.Mallard’s wife and forced to live under her husband’s shadow. She was not her own person. Not even her name was her own. It was not until the announcement of his death that we find that her name Is Louise. Upon the news of her husband’s death, she begins to feel that she is her own person and there is no longer anything holding her back from anything she wants to do. All the weight of what made her shudder at the thought of a long life has vanished. She did not question the news of Mr.Mallard’s death nor did she display denial. She accepted it in an instant. She went into the room to gather her thoughts and it was there in the room where we are shown her true feelings. What she meant by the quote was that before she hated her life and did not look forward to living her entire life as it was. Now, realizing her freedom and independence. She is eager for the days that lie ahead. It is ironic that while others would mourn at their lost, Louise Mallard does not see the situation as a loss at all; rather than a gift.
Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour is a story written on behalf of the time period she lived in. Her story unveils the troubling time women dealt with while they lived under their husbands. Kate Chopin’s character within the story, Mrs.Mallard displays what it was like to live as other women did in the late nineteenth century. She dreaded living under her husband’s shadow and dreaded her own life as a result. It was not until her husband’s death that she then began anticipating and looking forward to her life.