“The Story of an Hour” is a short story written by Kate Chopin in 1894. The story focuses on the one-hour experience of the protagonist, Louise Mallard. After learning about her husband’s death, Louise takes sinks deep in thought as she feels sadness for losing her husband and joy for the freedom ahead in her life. Chopin uses various themes, including repression, freedom, joy, and sorrow, to illustrate the problems experienced by the protagonist and their solutions. Louise Mallard faces challenges such as heart disease, her husband’s death, and repression but uses foreshadowed sense of freedom to overcome them.
Challenges of Louise Mallard
One of the major issues in Louise’s life is that she has heart disease. Josephine, Mrs. Mallard’s sister, is cautious when breaking Brently Mallard’s death news to Louise. She gives the information indirectly to prevent the worsening of Louise’s heart disease (Chopin 1). Another problem in Louise’s life is the loss of her husband. Josephine and her friend Richard bring Mrs. Mallard the news of her dead husband. In the revelation, Mallard had been killed in the Railroad accident. Louise is devastated, rocks herself in her room, and starts crying. While mourning her husband’s death, Louise reveals that she feels trapped in her marriage.
Louis mentions that she is living under the control of her husband. Her marriage was built under the perception that one person had a powerful bending will to impose on the other. Mrs. Mallard feels that while in this marriage, she had lost control of her life as well as the freedom to act depending on her will (Chopin 16). The author uses the setting to show the restrained and helpless Louise in her marriage with Mallard. The closed door of her room and the act of peeping through the window indicate the character’s repression.
How Louise Solves her Problems
The protagonist overcomes her husband’s death by realizing and anticipating the freedom ahead in her life. While closed in her room, Mrs. Mallard looks through the window and sees various aspects that distract her sad moments. Looking through the window, Louise sees lively trees, smells the “delicious breath of rain,” sees a hawker announcing his products, and can hear a song from a distance (Chopin 8). Chopin uses a window as a symbol to show the way to freedom. Things that are seen through the window symbolize freedom which Louise anticipates. Thus, it is this new and eluding hope to be free that the protagonist overcomes the feeling of sadness. The story author also objectifies a feeling, the sense of freedom. Chopin expresses the feeling by saying, “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her” (Chopin 10). While explaining how Louise shifted from a sorrowful to a joyous mood, Chopin regarded a sense of freedom as an object that was approaching the protagonist and was going to possess her.
Mrs. Mallard conquers her state of repression by embracing the idea of free days. When the thought of liberty strikes Louise, she is excited to live a free life. She perceives her husband’s death as an escape path to a liberal life where she will live for no one but herself (Wang 96). Time is a significant literary element here used to show how marriage operated in the days. Written in the 1890s, the story adapts the marriage settings and practices of that period (Yazgi 148). Although the story was written past the enlightenment era, society still held the traditional gender roles of a man and woman in a marriage. A woman would perform all her wife’s duties dictated by her husband. Back then, women had little to say in the operation of a marriage (Yazgi 149). A husband had great control over a wife and Chopin applied this aspect in the story. Instead of being sad about losing her companion, Louise Mallard was relieved that her controller was gone.
The protagonist also controls her heart condition with the anticipation of liberty. Josephine knocks on the door of the room in which Mrs. Mallard is to check on her. She is afraid that her condition will get worse if she deeply grieves. However, Louise’s heart condition is at peace and she is recovering from her newfound purpose in life. “She was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window” (Chopin 21). In other words, the imagination of a longer life acted as a healing potion for Mrs. Mallard. She fancied beautiful spring and summer days while hoping for longer life.
When her husband shows up alive, Louise immediately learns that she no longer has a chance at freedom. Her previous feeling that life is so long in the marriage struck her heart. This time and having lost her magical healing potion, the protagonist gives up on life (Wang 99). While the doctor assumes that she died of happiness caused by her husband’s coming back, Louise dies because her dream of freedom is shut. The return of her husband wipes all the liberty life she hoped for hence finding no reason to continue to live.
The protagonist endures issues such as heart disease, the loss of a husband, and repression, but the thought of liberty gives her hope. The afflicted character conquers her life problems with a sudden hope for freedom. After her husband’s death, Louise spends an hour visioning the happy moments that would guarantee her long life. Mrs. Mallard is one of the many women who felt emotionally restrained by their husbands in the 1890s.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. Vogue, 1894.
Wang, Haiqiong. “On the Spatial Narrative of “The Story of an Hour.” Asian Journal of Social Science Studies, vol. 7, no. 3, 2022, pp. 96-100. Web.
Yazgi, Cihan. “Tragic Elements and Discourse-Time in “The Story of an Hour.” The Explicator vol. 78, no. 3-4, 2020, pp. 147-152. Web.