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“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin Review

This short story is called “The story of an hour” because it describes with clear detail the occurrences of an hour in its protagonist’s life. Louise Mallard is the protagonist of this story. Her sister Josephine and her husband’s friend Richards got eh news of her husband’s death in a railroad disaster. They were very concerned about giving the news to her because she was afflicted with heart trouble. They were sure that she would overreact causing a great problem with her health. They told to her the occurrence as gently as possible but to their surprise, she did not react as other women do in front of a similar situation. In general, people can not stand the idea of losing someone very close to them and they overreact. They lose the ability to accept the fact. Mrs. Mallard did not do that. She had a storm of grief in her sister’s arms. This happened because she accepted the fact with all its consequences. After that, she went to her room to stay alone. Her meditation and her actions in the room represent the greatest part of the story. Here the author describes all her feelings using the expressions of her body. The heart, the pulse, the eyes and all her face spoke about what she was feeling and thinking. All the details lead to think that this woman accepted the death of her husband and did not make herself ill for the received news. The end of the story comes when she goes out of the room with her sister and they descend the stairs. Downstairs the door opened and entered her husband. After realizing that in fact, he is still alive, she dies. This is a tragic end but it has quite the most important function in the entire story. I think that the writer has purposely put this end to the story. It carries the whole meaning.

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The characters of the story are:

  • Louise Mallard, the protagonist
  • Brently Mallard, her husband
  • Josephine, Mrs. Mallard’s sister
  • Richards, Mr. Mallard’s friend

If we give a look at them we realize that it is very difficult to talk about them. Their space of action is very limited and does not give the possibility to derive a lot from their personality. To be able to say something about their thoughts and features we have to look deep into every single detail. We have also to take present the time when the story was written. Mrs. Mallard represents the women of 1894 with all their problems, feelings and thoughts. She represents the women that have to hide their real emotions losing themselves and accepting that only men can have the possibility to think and act as they want. Another character is Josephine. She is another woman who knows the reality where she is living and who shows solidarity to her sister understanding and even predicting her reaction.

The confining space of the story carries an important meaning. I can say that the life of Mrs. Mallard was limited like the space described in the story. The space of her thoughts and heart was limited too. She was not free to act and think as she wanted. The restriction for her was represented by her marriage. This is one interpretation. Another interpretation which I would like to consider more correct is the fact that she had to hide her emotions. She has to hide her reaction when she finds out about her husband’s death and a limited and hidden space gives this possibility to her. In another kind of space, perhaps wider, she would not have the possibility to act like herself.

Her relatives were quite sure about her overreaction. She would have to show deep pain in front of others whether she felt it or not. They knew perfectly this fact and thought that her heart would be affected in both cases. Her heart would feel the same for joy or for sorrow. Her sister Josephine was someone who perhaps suffered the same destiny as many other women. She perfectly knew how her sister had to react in order to be fine with the actual society thought about the tragic fact.

The moment when Mrs. Mallard hears about her husband is the most interesting moment in the entire story. It is a key moment that makes us think about a covered meaning in that entire occurrence. She did not act like other women who do not accept the fact. Apparently, she accepted it with grief. This was the public reaction. The one that followed was the isolation to think about it. She took her time to define her real feelings. She felt a tremendous sense of tranquility and at the same time anxiety. She felt like something was coming for her. At first, she was afraid but the fear passed when she found out what was that “something”. It was freedom and self-assertion which that time was considered immoral for the women.

This quote carries the meaning of the whole story. It leads us to the real problem covered in this reading. The real problem was the lack of freedom. Even if a woman loves his couple she loves herself first. In the moment when the person that she loves, assuming that she really loves him, becomes the one who obstacles her self-assertion she prefers to lose him in order to gain her freedom. This is exactly what happened to Mrs. Mallard.

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In my opinion, the real heart trouble of Mrs. Mallard was the inability to live the life she would like to. The real trouble is the lack of freedom. A heart that can not breathe free can not be healthy. I think that Mrs. Mallard was not the only one who suffered from this illness.

It is very possible that the doctors may have misdiagnosed the problem because of their freedom to think about deeper causes. It was difficult for the doctors which were part of the society to think about something which was prohibited. They could not think that a woman likes to lose her husband. The explanation that they gave was the only one possible to give in those circumstances. They thought she was happy to find out that her husband was alive. The reality was different. She was terribly sad to find out that her dream about her freedom had ended.

The fact that Mrs. Mallard goes upstairs to receive the news is very meaningful. Taking present the circumstances and the time when the story was written, I can say that I am sure that Mrs. Mallard’s reaction would have been different. The women those times like all the people in general had to act like the society like. This means that they could be free to react only in places where no one could see them. The women had to show deep pain for their husband’s death even if they did not feel it. If they would act differently the society would have “punish” them. In those times, a man was considered to be very important for the family and the society, even more, important than a woman. It was the one who was expected to guaranty all the things to the family and the most important services to his society. That is a woman had to suffer for her husband’s death.

The story presents the view of marriage in 1894. In those times the marriage was considered to be an institution where the woman was not free to think and act as she wants. She had to act as her husband. Many acts like self-assertion were considered immoral. Every sign of feminism was rejected by society. Since 1894, women have made great efforts to change their position in front of society. The concept of marriage changed through time till the one we have present today which is very different from the marriage concept in 1894. In my opinion, we can not be precise by determining whether the attitude in 1894 is the same as the attitude now or not. I think that it depends on the state’s culture. In many countries or certain regions, the view of marriage has not changed, meanwhile, in many others, there have been enormous changes regarding this issue. In my opinion, this story is very interesting and carries an important reality. This is a reality that has lead us to think more about women and the change of the situation through time.

Reference

Chopin, K. (2014). The story of an hour: Short story. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin Review'. 3 November.

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