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The Death From Patriarchal Dependence

Marriage is a complex institutional system in which relationships between partners can be destructive. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is a feminist short story in which a woman reveals the subconscious desire to be free from her spouse’s pressure. A husband’s tragic death initially upsets Louise Mallard, but sincere happiness and tears of joy replace this feeling. The climactic final scene in which the husband returns home becomes fatal for the woman. It is the main ironic element and symbol of feminism, as doctors assumed that cardiac death was due to sudden joy. The patriarchal society, gender gap, and obedience to the husband did not allow women to plan their lives and do what they preferred. Louise Mallard died of heart disease caused by years of suffering in marriage, lack of personal freedom, and a hazy future full of pretense and service to the husband.

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The male world of the nineteenth century suppressed female independence

Despite the current progress in bridging the gender gap, this still has archaic tendencies. The fact is that women are yet viewed as unworthy of the behavior, work, or social privileges that are available to men. The nineteenth century was characterized by wage and role discrimination in which females did not have access to necessary social instruments. For example, the right to vote, career choice, and family decisions were not available to women until the Second World War (Ruggles 1811). Women did not have a practical opportunity for self-realization and self-education, since their principal value implied service and fulfillment of men’s decisions. The patriarchal model of society harms women moral well-being who are stereotypically perceived as unapproved to make decisions. Thus, the prerequisites for the creation of feminist literature by women are social injustice and the desire to prove the value of their point of view, which is a predictor of behavioral changes.

Kate Chopin is considered one of the first feminists to transform society through books

Besides “The Story of an Hour,” the author is also best known for the short story “The Awakening.” This story is essential in the context of this study since both protagonists are hostages of a patriarchal society. Edna Pontellier is a mother and wife but feels an emotional imbalance due to the mismatch of these roles and desires in self-realization (Nur 4). Like Edna, Mallard is shown as the female who has not yet embraced the ambition to be independent in the first part of the short story. The subconscious desire to be free and not tied to the family routine and obedience to the husband made both women accept an initially unusual role, which is transmitted as more decisive and confident. Louise replaced longing for happiness, and Edna listened to the heart’s call and succumbed to passion. Consequently, Chopin created characters who were not afraid to defy public pressure and a patriarchal model of relationships in which a woman is assessed as a disenfranchised member of the family.

Louise Mallard felt suffocated in marriage due to the impossibility of self-development and meeting individual needs

Kate Chopin sought to uncover the psychological difficulties of women in a patriarchal society. Mallard learns of the husband’s death, which undoubtedly leads to emotional breakdown and melancholy. However, the woman experiences a never-before-seen feeling that resembles a manic passion for freedom and fulfilling an old dream (Chopin 10). Marriage was not a shelter for love and understanding, but rather chains that enveloped the woman’s desire for growth. A feature of a short story is the absence of background, namely, concrete examples of situational cases between spouses. Louise feels melancholy, which is replaced by inexplicable joy and the final awareness of freedom. The subconscious desire for an independent life, in which self-love is a predictor of decision-making, was impossible in the late nineteenth century. Consequently, Chopin conveyed the emotional status of any woman of that time as vulnerable, who was no longer able to assess individual psychological well-being adequately.

The death report of the woman has signs of patriarchy

It was noted that Mallard’s last meeting ended with the death of the wife from heart disease, which was diagnosed as a joyful shock by the doctors (Chopin 24). This episode’s subtext is also the patriarchal model, as male physicians were the overwhelming majority of the profession. Men made a mistake in the diagnosis, but it reflects the female role in society. At first glance, this position is reasonable, since the characters were confident in the female anguish over the husband’s death. Nonetheless, the reader observes a growing joy and a sense of dream fulfillment as Louise realized their future life in solitude. The unfulfilled purpose and the collapse of personal prospects occur with the appearance of Brently, which was a too strong emotional blow for the woman. Shock death is ironic as it was simultaneously analyzed by dominant men and recognized as a consequence of joy rather than paralyzing horror.

The female role in society has been an object of transformation for several centuries. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin shows the story of the emotional transformation of the woman who learns of her husband’s death. The longing for helplessness was replaced by unprecedented joy as Mallard now could independently plan for the future. This feminist connotation is characteristic of Chopin, who has used similar imagery in other stories. Moreover, it reflects the nineteenth-century patriarchal society, in which the woman was regarded as a minor member of the family. The pursuit of personal physical freedom and independent decision-making is perceived as a crime, which contrasts with the stories. Thus, the short story is the quintessence of the feminist movement in an ironic form.

References

Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour: Short Story. Harperperennial Classics, 2014.

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Nur, Dedi Rahman. “An Analysis of the Feminist Characters in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Awakening.’” JEES (Journal Of English Educators Society), vol. 2, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-20.

Ruggles, Steven. “Patriarchy, Power, and Pay: The Transformation of American Families, 1800–2015.” Demography, vol. 52, no. 6, 2015, pp. 1797-1823.

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