The Story of an Hour
As the title puts it, “The Story of an Hour” is a story that happens in one hour. This story mostly revolves around one woman, Louis Mallard, who is used to develop many themes in the story. Some of the themes brought have a different interpretation from what is normally known in the usual circumstances. The themes of freedom and death have been projected quite in a way that gives a reader another understanding different from what is already known. Other themes that are evidently seen are time, freedom and confinement, marriage and emotional regression. The title of the story also shows how so many things can happen within a single hour (Wiggin and Nora 27). In normal circumstances, death brings sorrow, grief, seclusion, guilt, regrets, amongst other feeling depending on the course of death. In this story, death brings some of these feelings such as sorrow and grief. However, the story has proved that death can bring joy and independence. Kate Chopin uses death to symbolize joy and independence.
The story begins on a very sad note especially in the eyes of a reader. Mrs. Mallard is said to have a “heart trouble” (Chopin 1) and so Josephine felt that great care had to be taken when delivering the sad news of Bently’s death (Mrs. Mallard’s husband). Upon the delivery of the news, she starts sobbing and grieving then goes to her room (3) to be by herself. This was a time to reflect upon her life. The reality of a life without her husband slowly started setting in. during this time the author helps us to realize that the death of her husband meant that there will be no more “women and men oppressing one another” (Chopin 5). As she is in her room, there is an overwhelming feeling that slowly builds up. Although she tries to conceal it, she can feel it within. It is the feeling of joy and happiness as to the new freedom she has found ().
During this time that she is in the room, she gets to think of the days that lay ahead of her. She even thinks of the funeral day. She knows that she will cry when she sees the cops of her husband but it seems as if it will crying induced by formality rather than feelings. Death has come to liberate her from the marriage bondage. According to her, both men and women are victims of this bondage. Although she had some feelings of love for her husband, she tries to console herself that none of that mattered ant more and she would get a new kind of freedom. From the general look of things, it seems that this marriage was rather a sad rather than a happy marriage. There are no children mentioned in the story, which makes one wonder if they really had intimate times. At the beginning of the story, Louise is described to have a “fair calm face whose lines bespoke repression” (Chopin 2). This may make a reader think that she is an old woman. However, she is young woman as one gets to know as the story continues. The lines of regression portray that she was in an unhappy marriage. Her heart trouble at such an early age was also another sign that she was happy. This death would release her from all this unhappiness and usher her in to the world of independence, self-control and a new life.
When in her room, the words “Free! Free! Free!” (Chopin 4) escape her lips. Although she does this in a holding back manner, she seems to be happy that she is finally free from a life that was belittling and oppressing. To her, her husband’s death meant that she was free from obeying another person’s rules, free from a name that did not originally belong to her (Mallard), commitment that she had made some time back (marriage) and free from living with a person that she did not fully love. It is not until later, that we know that her first name is Louis. Her last name became so part of her that she almost forget her real identity. After the death of her husband, in her room, she is referred to by her first name. This symbolizes that she is slowly trying to get back her first identity that she abandoned when she got married. The sense of freedom and independence is slowly settling in (Chopin, Edmund & Per 365).
“She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (Chopin 4). This statement shows that even though Mrs. Mallard was greatly sorrowed by her husband’s death, the other life around her still went on. . Her husband had passed away, but all what she could see from her window were the symbols of ‘new life”. Spring itself is usually a sign of rebirth. It was ironical that her husband would die during that time of the year (Chopin et al. 355). It says, “She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.” (Chopin 7). In this context, it seems as if Mrs. Mallard’s body is separated from herself so that she “continues” to cry unconsciously. Even though her mind is detaching from the thoughts of her husband, she still occasionally wracked sobs. Chopin uses the metaphor of a child falling asleep crying in order to make her point clearer. Comparing Mrs. Mallard to the crying child seems to emphasize her innocence and vulnerability, in order to show that her of the relief she felt after hearing her husband’s death were not as bad as they seemed to be.
In the statement, “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin 14), the author communicates to the reader something. This seems to tell us that she used to live as her husband wished her to live and not her own wish. After this, she will live according to her own wishes, something she had not experienced for a long time. In each part of the sentence, the verb “no one” and “herself” occupy the same relationship. This is to mean that either Mrs. Mallard is of the idea that no one finds her of value, or she is suggesting that it is only rationale for her to be herself if there is no one else to set rules for her. In the statement, “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long” (Chopin 19), Mrs. Mallard is afraid of what will happen in her after life. It is only once she thought her husband had died and that she was free and was now excited about living. This is another example of Chopin’s use of ironic style, for this prayer is not answered (Wiggin and Nora 57).
“When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills” (Chopin 23). According to the other characters’ views, the circumstance that led to Mrs. Mallard’s death was understandable. It was unfortunate but natural that after such an experience of grief and sorrow, her heart would not be able to take the shock of seeing her husband alive “again”. However, we can conclude that other feelings may have killed her. She was disappointed that her fantasy had been shattered. That all what she had thought would be freedom, was but a dream.
As illustrated, death has captured a reader’s attention to show that it might mean something different from what is already known. Although she was grieved by her husband’s death, she was happier that she was going to be free. In fact, she was so happy that she died when she realized that it was all a dream. The author feels that although death is a tragedy in itself, it can bring a mixture of sorrow and happiness to a particular individual depending on what the one who died meant to the bereaved.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. New York, NY: Perfection Learning, 2000. Print.
Chopin, Kate, Edmund Wilson & Per Seyersted. The complete works of Kate Chopin. New York, NY: LSU Press, 2006. Print.
Wiggin, Kate and Nora Smith. The Story Hour. Glenview, IL: Dodo Press, 2007. Print.