How Does “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin Criticize the Social Institution of Marriage?

How Does “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin Criticize the Social Institution of Marriage?
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How the of Marriage is depicted in “The Story of an Hour” Introduction “The Story of an Hour” depicts a negative picture of the institution of marriage. The author presents to the reader a situation where a woman who seems to be overjoyed after the death of her husband. The joy is expressed by Louise’s emotions as she celebrates in extreme joy and enjoys her newfound freedom. The widow is happy and lively inside her room with the realization that her husband is no more and that she would now have all the freedom in the world. Louise’s joy and happiness are an indication that the institution of marriage is constraining. Louise represents other women and pioneering feminists in search of freedom and selfhood, not an egoist immature victim of her own self-assertion. This paper critically analyzes the story and how it depicts the institution of marriage. Marriage is expressed as an institution where the woman lacks personal liberty and freedom.


The story shows the pretense nature of marriage partners to the outside world and how this translates in their inner self. Upon receiving the news of her husband’s death, she wept in Josephine’s arms. The grief is an indication of the strong bond that held her with the husband. However, this would later change after she gets her own personal space to think about how her husband’s death would change her life. Although she enjoyed the freedom of living without being controlled by her husband, feelings of love and affection are openly expressed. She was quite sure that she would moan again when she saw the tender kind hands of her husband folded in death (Chopin 12). She was also certain that her husband’s face always expressed her love. However, she could see beyond that grief, many more years to come filled with personal freedom and happiness. She was ready to welcome the newfound freedom. In the future, she would live for no one but herself.

The freedom that Louise anticipates getting is an expression of how marriage life denies individuals their own freedom (Werlock, & James 12). Although it is fun to live with someone she loves, it is more fun to live independently with no one to question or follow her actions. Spouses in marriage do not live together because they want to, it is because the society expects them to live together and express love for one another. Similarly, the story depicts how people in marriage live with secret hard feelings for one another. In all the years that she had lived with her husband, Louise always hoped that freedom would finally come (Chopin 16). She would not wish her husband to die untimely, but she believed that her husband restricted her in many ways.

The day prior to her death, Louise had anticipated how her life would be long. This expresses the nature of hopelessness in marriage. It is likely that her husband was mistreating her and did not allow her to make her own choices in life. In the social setup, the husband is the head of the family while the wife is expected to submit to him. However, it is possible that women only submit to their husbands because they do not want to go against the social norms and practices. Given a chance, many women in marriage may choose to live alone away from their husbands. Marriage is depicted as a disunited institution where each of the spouses serves his or her personal interests. Although Louise claims to possess affectionate feelings for her husband, her personal interests take priority (Chopin, & Kate 22). She would rather not have the love and care of her husband than having the freedom to do whatever pleases her. Louise hopes to get away with the marriage life but still wants to express her joy and concern for her husband (The Story of An Hour, 6). Even after having many plans for her future where she would live all by herself, she ends up losing her own life to a heart attack when all her hopes are gone after her husband returns.


The institution of marriage is depicted as a unifying factor in the family and a source of restriction of personal freedom. Spouses, especially women, may be sick of being in relationships that deny them the joy and happiness that they need in their lives. Contrary to the view that marriage is an institution of joy and care for one another, the author depicts it as an institution where the spouses only mind about themselves and not about their partners. This expresses the faulty nature of the institution of marriage. Some women only want to please their husbands, but deep inside their heart, their intentions are different. It is possible that the husband was mistreating her, but she was not ready to speak it out. The stressing marriage life may also have made her prone to heart attack.

Works Cited
“The Story of an Hour” – Kate Chopins Voice against Patriarchy. München: GRIN Verlag, 2010. Print.
Chopin, Kate, and Kate Chopin. The Story of an Hour. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 2001. Print.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour: Short Story. Toronto, Ontario: HarperPerennial Classics, 2014. Print.
Werlock, Abby H. P, and James P. Werlock. The Facts on File Companion to the American Short Story. New York NY: Facts On File, Inc, 2010. Print.