Louise Mallard in the Story of an Hour: Character Analysis
The character of Louise Mallard in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” experiences a brief moment of freedom upon hearing the news about her husband’s death in a railroad disaster. She savors every bit of this moment of freedom with extreme fervor only to find out in the end that her husband is in fact alive. Louise Mallard dies on the spot after letting out a “piercing cry” (Chopin). The doctor’s diagnosis is nothing but a heart disease or “of the joy that kills” (Chopin). The question now is whether the audience like me can relate to her character. I believe so and that makes Louise Mallard a sympathetic character.
Just like any other normal human being, Louise has been wanting to be free and has rejoiced upon realizing that she has finally had it. When someone’s husband dies, society expects the wife to mourn and grieve lest being labeled as cruel or anything else negative. However, Louise’s case is different. The rather “monstrous joy” that holds Louise at this point cannot be mistaken as an act of cruelty but rather a demonstration of her realization that finally she has been freed from bondage (Chopin). Her husband’s death means that “there would be no one to live for during those coming years” and that “there would be no powerful will bending hers…” (Chopin). What she is implying here is that her husband used to overpower and somehow maltreat her when he was still alive. As a Muslim, I believe that a woman must submit to her husband’s wishes but not to the point that her own will should be bent in such a way that she would not feel happy anymore. Although I am a man myself, I believe I have no right to impose my will upon my future wife in such a way that she would hate me that much and rejoice upon my death. Muslims love their women and greatly respect them. Besides, as a young person of my own time, I personally believe that marriage, whether in Islam or in other religions, must be one of equality. Gone were those days when wives had to enslave themselves to their husbands – they should now share equal responsibilities as well as equal rights within their marriage. If Louise feels freedom from bondage with her husband even though this bondage does not have any proof and may only have been imagined by her, then what is wrong with that? What is wrong with sitting on a “comfortable, roomy armchair” while savoring the “new spring of life” and whispering “Free! Body and soul free!”? (Chopin). After all, we all want freedom, except perhaps those who have got used to bondage that they cannot anymore seem to live without it. Besides, nobody would disagree with me that for most of us what matters is not whether it is true that we are in bondage or not but simply whether we feel free or not.
Louise Mallard is a sympathetic character also because she knows how to endure her own hardships and difficulties just like anyone of us. In fact, the omniscient point of view of the story makes us delve deeper into how Louise actually feels deep down. She does not talk much in the story but the point of view helps us to know how much she has suffered from her husband. An insight into her pain allows us to know that despite her husband’s death, she cannot seem to wait for that “long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin). This longing for freedom, her “heart trouble” mentioned at the beginning of the story, and the fact that “often she had not [loved her husband]” all tell us one thing – Louise Mallard has endured a lot of pain and suffered from it (Chopin). How many of us have not endured any pain in our lives and wished that someday it would all end and we would finally have that “long procession of years to come that would belong ONLY TO US absolutely”? This is not selfishness on the part of Louise but a mere demonstration of true human nature. Although some may argue that she could simply have divorced or told her husband the truth instead of enduring it, I would say it would be rather difficult to do that. I belong to a high-class society and I know how difficult it is sometimes for husbands and wives of the high society, to be honest with each other especially about sensitive things, or especially if a wife does not love the husband anymore. Often in high society, out of a need to preserve a good image to friends and family and out of a desire to protect the welfare of the children, wives simply endure living their lives with husbands that they do not love any longer. In the United Arab Emirates, I cannot deny that some wives are favored by their husbands compared to his other wives but the punishment of separation is ostracism and a lack of financial support for the kids. Some wives are therefore often left with no option but to endure.
Louise Mallard is a sympathetic character and there are two reasons to prove this. First, she shows how important freedom is to her life and how much she longs for it. All of us human beings share this sentiment. Second, Louise knows how to endure suffering and she expects reward after it, and I believe this is just true human nature. Despite the tragic end of the story with Louise’s death, Louise has demonstrated to us that she is merely human – she has endured the pain and rejoiced at the idea of the reward of freedom.
Works Cited: Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” 2012. Virginia Commonwealth University. 11 Feb 2012.