Symbolism in “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm”
The Story of an Hour the tribulations and endurance that comes with news of a woman’s death as epitomized in the character of character of Louise Mallard. Through the story, Kate Chopin discusses the heartache and distress that women undergo in the event of their husband’s death using a number of symbols. The most significant symbols in the story are the open window and Mallard’s heart terminal trouble. While Mallard grieves and sees the supposed death of her husband as the end of the road, the open window from which she looks at the green horizon following the news of her husband’s death signifies the many opportunities and freedom that await her when she finally becomes independent of her husband’s dominance and manipulation (Chopin).
Through the open window, Louise gazes at other symbols such as the green treetops, the blue sky, and fluffy clouds, all which signify joy and the beautiful life that waits her. The symbol of the open window and the other significant signs that come with it emphasize the need for women to have lives of their own and as opposed to relying on control of their male counterparts. The essence of the open window is that the world offers more to them than just men. Across the window, Louise gets the promising breeze of the approaching rainstorm and hears the ululating sound of the singing birds. These symbolize joy with the onset of spring promising a new lease of life. When Louise finally gets off the window and takes a gaze at the sky, she gets comforting sense of joy, especially due to the realization that life can offer more beyond her confinement. The open window provides a spectacular view into the life beyond marriage and the bright future ahead of Louise, which is now under her own control, devoid of any domineering man. From a broader perspective, it signifies the opportunities and freedom that modernity has brought to women, whom no longer have to depend on men for their livelihood (Chopin). Coincidentally, Louise loses her freedom the moment she turns her view off the window and loses the exciting view of the free life.
The heart trouble that disturbs Louise is a significant symbol that reveals Louise’s dissatisfaction in her marriage and the gloom that comes with her lack of freedom. When we first encounter Louise, we instantly learn that she has heart trouble, which makes her husband’s death more frightening given that with a weak heart, she is not likely to survive the subsequent shock. The ironic report by the doctor that Louise instead died of overwhelming joy shows just how relieved she was after the death of her husband. In essence, Louise seems to have died following the heartache that came with the loss of independence (Chopin).
The Storm is a story that centers on the heartaches, tribulations and disillusionment that come the demise of a love ended so early. Through the character of Alcee and Calixta, who are couples in a brief love affair, The Storm, like Story of an Hour tells of marital problems, dissatisfaction and the resulting unfaithfulness, as Calixta and Alcee both married couples engage in a short lived but illicit love affair (Chipin). The story is set in the nineteenth century in Louisiana.
In The Storm, Chopin remarkably makes use of various symbols to epitomize the persisting troubles in most contemporary marriages. Most significant of these symbols is the storm, which in its symbolic sense signifies a strong passion and compulsive sexual desire. The storm generally signifies a woman’s resolve to seek sexual satisfaction outside her marriage. This is evident in the character of Calixta, who despite being married appears restless, dissatisfied, and seems to lose control of her marital life (Chopin). At the beginning of the story, we encounter Calixta as a faithfully married woman, who only focuses on her household chores. This however, is not the case because when Alcee enters to shelter from the storm, Calixta becomes obsessed with the passion they once shared before they both married and elicit a series of actions that eventually lead the two of them to succumbing into a steamy sexual affair. In this sense, the storm from which Alcee is seeking shelter could signify her own desires and tribulations in marriage.
In the Storm, the symbol of the open window again suffices, when the two illicit lovers look through the window at the time when lightning strikes pushing Alcee to Calixta’s arms. The window in this case signifies the free world where the two lovebirds would enjoy their illicit affair without reservations from their otherwise possessive marital partners. Just as the storm strikes suddenly, so does the unexpected arrival of Alcee who excites Calixta’s past emotions and causes turmoil to her marriage. The storm sets a perfect stage for lovemaking between the two lovebirds since as it rages outside Bobito; Calixta’s husband is not likely to return home.
Chopin, Kate (1984). The Story of an Hour. Web. Accessed November 22, 2011 at http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/
“The Symbolism of the Storm in the Storm by Kate Chopin.” 123HelpMe.com. 22 Nov 2011