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Unhappy Marriage in “The Story of an Hour” by K. Chopin

Choplin’s story is set in a time when many females were supposed to play the role of a housewife and a homemaker. This was a time where roles for females and males were defined by society such as women took care of the house while the man was responsible for earning for the family. When I first began reading Choplin’s story Mrs. Mallard was introduced as an old woman who is suffering from a dangerous disease of the heart. Further, when the news of the death of her husband Bentley Mallard is broken to her, the author uses the words ‘concealed in hints’ to emphasize that such bad news might have a bad impact on her, and such news would come as a shock to a person with heart disease. Mrs. Mallard shows a natural reaction which we see from anybody who is close to a person who has died and she starts crying and sobbing uncontrollably and is extremely saddened by her husband’s death. She locks herself up in a room and cries her heart out. At this point, the story takes a turn and while the reader would expect Mrs. Mallard to be still sad and crying over her husband’s death and miss the long time spent together as wife and husband, she starts saying the words ‘free’ again and again. Through this short story, Choplin has pointed towards how women in that time were known only through their husbands and did not have a chance to have their own identity because, according to society, a woman’s place was at home.

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It is told in the later paragraphs that she is actually a young woman with a calm face and that her marriage with Bentley Mallard was not a happy one. As she is sitting in her room on a comfortable chair and gazing outside the window deep in thought, she is saying to herself constantly the words ‘free, free, free’. It is here that Choplin has made her point that after her husband’s sudden death Mrs. Mallard finds herself free of obeying her husband’s wishes and traditional customs that society had forced her to follow as a wife of a husband. Though the marriage of the Mallards was seemingly a successful one with the wife obeying the husband and being a perfect homemaker yet this had restricted her self, thoughts, feelings and wishes. Her job was to behave in a manner that suited a wife without any regard for herself. She is mentioned in the latter part of the story by her name Louise whereas before that she is referred to as Mrs. Mallard identifying another theme during that time that while it is common for a woman to accept her husband’s last name after marriage yet this sometimes signifies that now from being a separate individual she has become a property of someone known by their name, not her own. Once her husband passes away she has that ray of hope of getting back her lost freedom and being free and living for herself and only her in the days to come. No more obeying or bending to the will of her husband.

At the time Choplin wrote this story marriages were mostly about social prestige, class, and monetary gains rather than mutual understanding and love. Even though Bentley Mallard had never been unkind to his wife yet his death opened new ways for her. She could do whatever she chose to and as she liked according to her wishes. She saw her husband’s death as a break from all the oppression. She felt she was once again in control of her own life without having to answer to anybody for her actions. When in the last paragraph her husband returns from his travels safely and unhurt she once again loses her newfound freedom and is referred to as the wife of Bentley Mallard rather than her name Louise as she is referred to earlier by her sister Josephine.

Before her husband’s death, her days were filled with duties of being a wife and her relationship gave her no happiness and made her feel as if she were trapped in a cage. She was “pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body” possibly because of all the chores she had to do and fulfill as part of her duties as a housewife. But since her husband was declared dead she sees the potential for a new life as if her husband’s death means rebirth for her own soul and body. She notices little details about her surroundings such as “new spring life, a breath of rain, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” as a sign of peace that will come in her life now. This quick change took place in one hour as suggested by the topic of the story. Normally, it would require someone a lot of time to get over the death of a close person however after her brief sadness and shock had passed, a hope to live for took its place.

This story presents the view of how women felt in that time and maybe still do in a marriage especially if it leads to a life controlled by the husband and in serving the husband. They probably see the only way of escape as the husband’s death in order to get back their lost identity. At the end of the story, she dies of a heart attack not because of the joy of seeing her husband alive and well and back home safe but rather seeing her husband alive killed her hopes of a free life instantly and her heart could not take the shock of living again like this and she died. Since Mrs. Mallard has never told about her unhappiness with her marriage or how miserable she felt, people around her thought that she died from the happiness of seeing her husband well and alive.

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StudyCorgi. "Unhappy Marriage in “The Story of an Hour” by K. Chopin." November 20, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/unhappy-marriage-in-the-story-of-an-hour-by-k-chopin/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Unhappy Marriage in “The Story of an Hour” by K. Chopin." November 20, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/unhappy-marriage-in-the-story-of-an-hour-by-k-chopin/.

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