Should death bring sorrow or happiness? The Story of an Hour is a short piece written by Kate Chopin in 1894 and published in the late eighteen hundreds. Louis Mallard, the protagonist in the story is forced to stay in an unhappy marriage without any freedom. The protagonist in the short story is used as an example of how the Victorian women had mixed emotions and reactions after being told about the deaths of their husbands. Mrs. Mallard experiences an exhilaration of freedom instead of despair and anguish after finding out about the death of her husband. The excitement did not last long because she later learned that her husband was still alive and this made her feel that her hope for freedom is gone. In the end, the crushing disappointment that her husband is not dead kills Mrs. Mallard. Kate Chopin uses the protagonist in the story to show the plight of the Victorian women in the society and how they wanted freedom.
Mrs. Mallard is the main character in the book. She was overjoyed about her husband’s death because she was unhappy in her marriage. The narrator says that the protagonist felt free because “there would be no one to live for in those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin, 2000). Louise while in her room shouted, “Free free free” because she was happy that she was finally free from an oppressing life in marriage. For Louise, her husband’s death was a sign of freedom because according to the narrator, she did not love her husband. When Mrs. Mallard learned about the death of her husband, she was rest assured that there will “be no powerful will bending her” to stick in a marriage she did not want. In addition, she was excited because Brently will not be around to “have the “right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature” (Chopin, 2000). Therefore, Chopin uses the protagonist to show the plight of women who live in a society dominated by men.
Mr. Mallard thought that he had every right to dictate everything Louise did and this is what created friction in their marriage. Therefore, upon hearing of his death, Mrs. Mallard was happy because he will no longer be there to repress her nor direct her in everything she did. In fact, she looked forward to “years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin, 2000). She now knew that she was going to live for herself and free to be her own person, someone who is not living under the shadow of her husband. Mr. Mallard viewed Louise as a weakling who could not handle her affairs, as a result, she felt suffocated in her marriage (Johan, 2008). Louise longed to be free from this and this is the reason why she was happy with the news of her husband’s death.
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Many women in the society possessed strengths they were not allowed to use. Louise dreaded the years she spent under her husband’s shadow who never allowed her to be her own person. Her strength was repressed and this is evident when Chopin writes Mrs. Mallard was having a face “whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.” (Chopin, 2000). She was happy that now here husband is no longer in the picture, she could start making plans and decisions for her future without any hindrance. As the story ends, the protagonist was completely disappointed because she just saw her husband walk in through the front door (Xiu-yun, 2010). Louise thought she was free from an oppressed marriage and at some point, she was happy. However, when her husband walks in, she collapses and dies of a “heart disease” (Chopin, 2000). She lost her joy of being free and in control of her own life and this led to her death.
In conclusion, Chopin’s The Story of an Hour is a fictional piece with a protagonist who depicts the plight of the Victorian women. Chopin uses the Louise Mallard’s life and experiences in her marriage to portray how women were oppressed in the society because they were not allowed to use their strengths. Mrs. Mallard was trapped in an unhappy marriage, and that is why she was overjoyed with the news of her Brently’s death. The Story of an Hour is an important text that portrays how women had to deal with men who dominated their lives because their opinions were never considered nor heard.
- Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. New York, NY: Perfection Learning, 2000. Print.
- Johan, R. T. (2008). The Images of Wife and Mother in Kate Chopin’s Narratives: A Feminist Reading. Journal Sastra Inggris, 38.8: 1, 38, 50.
- Xiu-yun, X. U. E. (2010). A Stylistic Analysis of” The Story of an Hour”[J]. Journal of Zhangzhou Institute of Technology, 1, 032.