The basis of the story “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is the selfhood in a woman and her desire for self-fulfillment. The critics have greatly praised this story, and it is by far the most famous story by Kate Chopin. It celebrates the yearning for freedom by a woman and reflects upon a different way of seeing one’s right to freedom. “The Story of an Hour” is an exemplary example of self-assertion.
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For the reader, it is hard to predict the next stage of the story. In the early phase of the story, it could be expected to turn out tragic and heartbreaking because of the poor widow lady and tragic separation of a loving couple. However, the story takes a turn as new characters are revealed. The story progresses and unfolds conflicts with several complications, which lead the readers to the climax of the story.
The story portrays Chopin’s ideas and beliefs regarding the freedom of women. It represents her ideology about the repressive role that marriage plays in the life of a woman. The marriage is mentioned as a protagonist in a woman’s life. Chopin was an independent woman with a free spirit despite her marriage. She admitted the resemblance of Mrs. Mallard’s character to herself in real life.
The story started as one of the characters of the story Josephine carefully and gently broke the news to her sister, who was a heart patient, about her loving husband’s death. When Mrs. Mallard got to know about her husband’s death, she wept in the arms of her sister Josephine and then went upstairs, where she locked herself (Chopin, 2011).
Josephine waited for her sister outside her room. She was worried about her sister as she felt bad for the loss of her sister. However, when Mrs. Mallard was expected to be in a state of shock, despair, and sadness because of her husband’s death, she showed her joy for the chance she got to attain self-fulfillment in the absence of her partner.
Josephine begged Mrs. Mallard to open the door. After a while, Mrs. Mallard opened the door and embraced Josephine. Both sisters went downstairs were Mr. Richard (a character of the story) was waiting. At that very moment, Mr. Mallard opened the main door and entered the house. After seeing him alive, Mrs. Mallard became unconscious and fell on the ground.
Later, doctors who examined Mrs. Mallard declared the sudden joy caused the death of a young heart patient. The term “heart-patient” was used ironically throughout the story. Mrs. Mallard was not shocked by the news of Mr. Mallard’s death. Instead, a bigger shock of Mr. Mallard being alive after immense joy killed her instantly.
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The sentences used to portray the actual meaning of freedom in the story such as, “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin, 2011, p. 14) explains the self-fulfillment of the character. The inclusion of the word “her” in the sentence refers to the previous life of ‘Louise Mallard,’ which was meant for her husband, and she dedicated her life and aimed for him.
Another sentence used in the story, which is very important, is “Free! Body and soul free!” It reflects the actual reaction of Mrs. Mallard on her husband’s death. Her life was controlled and shaped by her husband. Mrs. Mallard believed that she was restricted and felt bounded by the soul and body as a slave by Mr. Mallard (Mandell & Kirszner, 1993).
The character of Mrs. Mallard is presented in a negative manner because of her insensitivity towards her husband’s death as she showed no grievance for that. Although she admitted that her husband was kind and loving, she never felt sad about the loss.
The other two characters Josephine and Mr. Richard, in the story, are entirely different. Josephine is portrayed as a loving and caring sister. She supported her sister and remained beside in the darkest hour. On the other hand, Mr. Richard is portrayed as a decent and kind person as he wanted to reconfirm the news of his friend’s death and then console his wife with the aid of her sister. Moreover, Mr. Richard tried to hide Mrs. Richard from the sight of Mr. Mallard as he unexpectedly entered the house.
The story is full of different instances as the plot moves with an exposition of more than one conflict. The author provides basic information to the readers, and the story is written using simple and brief sentences. The reader encounters the climax without his or her ability to predict it.
The story’s theme portrays a woman who loved her husband, but her love for freedom was more than anything else. A woman, who experienced a life of freedom, shortly but with a depth, is portrayed in the role of Mrs. Mallard. “The Story of an Hour” is only an hour’s story in which a woman became a widow, and she rejoiced and celebrated self-assertion fully for a short time as she did not expect to see her husband again.
Chopin, K. (2011). The Story of an Hour: And Other Stories (1 ed.). USA: Scout Books.
Mandell, Stephen R., & Kirszner, Laura G. (1993). Fiction: Reading, Reacting, Writing (1 ed.). USA: Paulinas.