The story of an hour by Kate Chopin shows an episode from the life of a heart-sick Mrs. Mallard, who suddenly discovers her husband’s death. Heartbroken initially, the woman soon experiences sincere delight from realizing her freedom and eventually dies, seeing her husband alive again. In the story, the author shows the inner struggle of a woman experiencing the difficulties of unequal status and marriage in the 1890s.
As the main character, Louise undoubtedly becomes an illustrative example of women’s common experience of being repressed by marriage. Louise’s first reaction to the tragic news is emotional since she cries bitterly and locks herself in her room. The tears are replaced by unrestrained joy soon, and Louise can’t stop smiling and repeating to herself that she has finally become free. Good memories of her husband cannot calm the delight of his death, although the heroine does not describe her marriage as unhappy. She felt that her will was being suppressed, which was common for the woman’s position of that time, but despite that, her husband loved her sincerely. Using the example of her character’s emotional shocks, the author shows the inferior position of women in society and the difficulties they had to face.
The setting demonstrates the huge difference between the concept of freedom for a man and a woman in America in the 1890s. Louise does not leave the walls of her house throughout the story and remains locked in it until the last minutes of her life, while Louise’s husband, by contrast, freely uses rail transport. Brently Mallard also has personal belongings such as a suitcase and an umbrella, which covertly emphasizes his broader freedoms. The absence of Mr. Mallard throughout the story allows not only shows the contrast between freedom and imprisonment but also lets Louise fully experience the taste of freedom that she could not find next to her husband. Mrs. Mallard is an obvious victim of her illness and social status, which requires her to follow the role of an obedient and submissive wife.
In the work, the author expansively uses symbolism and emphasizes the main character’s plight at a deeper level. One of the key symbols is Louise’s sick heart, around which the whole plot is built. The image of the heart haunts the reader throughout the story, showing itself in moments of delight and grief. It beats with joy after the news of Mr. Mallard’s death, and it also kills the heroine when the hope for the long-awaited freedom finally collapses. Another symbol is the constant contrast of joy and sadness, which go hand in hand as the story proceeds. The course of the narrative changes completely when a sigh of pleasure displaces the former sorrow. At the end of the story, the contrast also shows itself since the doctors who are sure that the reason for Louise’s death is intense joy cannot see her last suffering from the loss of freedom. Symbolism helps show the different facets of what Louise as a repressed woman experienced in the course of the story.
Even though the size of the text is small, it contains many topics for analysis and discussion. The story of an hour is primarily dedicated to the lack of freedom and the predicament of women in American society of the 1890s. The work depicts the plight of women’s position in marriage and can be generally perceived as a criticism of the following suppression system.
Chopin, K. (1981). The story of an hour. Jimcin Recordings.