Kate Chopin’s Background in “Story of an Hour”

In Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, the author tells the story of an hour in the life of Mrs. Mallard. The events of this hour describe the reaction of Mrs. Mallard to the news of the death of her husband as a result of a rail accident. As Chopin described Mrs. Mallard, she was “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” (Chopin, para, 8). Thus, it can be assumed that different types of emotions might have passed through the heroine’s mind during such a short period of time. A description of such rapidly changing thoughts is one of the main attributes of Chopin’s short story.

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At the same time, upon an exploration of Kate Chopin’s biography, which states that her father also died in a rail mishap in 1855, it can be seen that there are many similarities between the biography and the short story. Chopin was around five years old, exposed to heartache during her tender years, just as the heroine of her short story is. The sadness from the death of her father can be assumed to be portrayed in the case described in the short story. Additionally, the cause of Chopin’s father’s death is similar to the fate ascribed to Brently Mallard in the story. The situation of losing loved ones at a young age, either in family or marriage makes the two stories similar. Such fact leads to the assumption that Chopin’s biography facts and experience are reflected in the events of the short story and influential in the way such events are narrated. Thus, the present paper will try to analyze the aforementioned short story and Kate Chopin’s biography to investigate such assumptions.

According to Kate Chopin’s biography, her mother became the first lady in St. Louis to acquire legal severance from her husband. Such a decision might have been triggered by the will to gain autonomy. Additionally, this fact led to that Kate Chopin growing up surrounded by a widowed and independent mother. In the short story, Kate Chopin tells the reader of the reaction of Mrs. Mallard when she finds out about the death of her husband. Although it was a loss in her life, she saw it as a chance to untangle herself from her husband’s command. She said, “Free, free, free” (Chopin, para, 10). It can be seen that there is a clear parallel between Chopin’s relation to her mother’s autonomy in real life and the relation of Mrs. Mallard’s to her perceived freedom. On both occasions, the women are separated from their husbands. Nevertheless, it can be stated that there are differences in the modes of separation in both cases. In Kate’s real life, the separation resulted from legal procedures, while in the short story the perceived separation was sudden and non-intentional. The similarity, on the other hand, is that both women receive the aftermath of the separation positively, and thus planning to forge ahead with their lives.

Chopin’s real life was loomed by the deaths that occurred in her family. She lost her sisters when she was still an infant. Additionally, Chopin lost her father, two tragic facts that indicate a complicated childhood. Furthermore, those deaths occurred within a diminutive time, which if combined with the deaths of Chopin’s great grandmother and grandmother, might demonstrate her familiarity with the feeling of loss. In the short story, death is a central element of the narration. When Mrs. Mallard receives the news of her husband’s death, she becomes very sad, not knowing that such information is incorrect. Later on, Mrs. Mallard saw her husband walk into the house, consequently succumbing to heart conditions (Chopin, para, 16). Such facts show that Kate Chopin’s memories of the deaths that occurred in her life are brought into the events of the story. Accordingly, it should be mentioned that such incidents cannot be forgotten easily. In that regard, it is easier for a writer to base his/her ideologies on occurrences witnessed in real life since it limits the extent of research on unknown issues. Such is the case with Chopin, where she draws similarities between her experience and the facts of her biography and the information presented in the story.

Exploring Kate Chopin’s work, it can be suggested that Kate Chopin’s inspiration was largely based on her real-life experiences. Most of her stories relate to what happened in her real life. It can be easily concluded that even Kate Chopin’s death can be related to her short story. It was mentioned in the story that Mrs. Mallard was relieved with the death of her husband. This concept questions her perspective on life, since readers may doubt whether she was happy in her association. She considered it as freedom because she was about to live her own life. The latter can be emphasized through the heroine’s critique of people who impose individual will (Chopin, para, 12). Just as she is preparing to enjoy this freedom, her husband walks through the door, and the shock consequently kills her. Relating such passage to Kate Chopin’s real life, it can be seen that she attempted to attain fame as an author, an aspect that she failed to accomplish (Wyatt, para, 16). Such fact is similar to what happened to Mrs. Mallard in the short story, where the failure to have freedom led to her dying instead.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour”. 1894. English Department. Virginia Commonwealth University. Web.

Wyatt, Neal. “Biography of Kate Chopin”. 1995. English Department. Virginia Commonwealth University. Web.

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