The Story Of An Hour: Analysis Essay Example
The Story of an Hour Kate Chopin’s short story, “The Story of an Hour,” tells the tale of Mrs. Mallard, a woman who has learned that a railroad accident has taken the life of her husband. Though she mourns bitterly, she succumbs even further to grief when she learns that he is still alive. As a result, she suffers from a heart attack and dies. There is no doubt that she died as a result of her husband’s aliveness, but it is commonly held that she died at what it meant that he was still alive. Hidden amongst the heartbreak of her husband’s death was an overwhelming desire for freedom. Upon discovering that her husband was alive, her hope for freedom was quickly taken from her.
Mrs. Mallard lived in a time when women were considered to be property of their husbands. Women were entitled to very little freedoms and opportunities outside of their husbands’ wishes, and it was an obligation that they tend to the needs of the husband and children. Furthermore, there was an unspoken belief that all women desired to be married; it went against societal norms for a woman to want to remain single. Mrs. Mallard had never been mistreated by her husband, but upon being married, she had to give up living for herself and relying on her own means to be happy. Once she entered married life, everything fell on her husband, and thus, Mrs. Mallard forfeited her freedom.
As any proper wife would, Mrs. Mallard mourned for her husband. “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment […]. When the storm of grief had spent itself, she went away to her room alone (Chopin pg. 547).” Despite all that she had given up to marry her husband, she was still grateful for his presence and his love for her. Fittingly, she grieved for his sudden, and seemingly permanent, absence. That grief, however, was short-lived as Mrs. Mallard began to contemplate what it meant to her that her husband was no longer alive for her to live under. As much as they loved each other, there is no denying that Mr. Mallard was the root of Mrs. Mallard’s unhappiness. Mrs. Mallard was happy in the early years of her marriage, but the only thing keeping the couple together was the marriage contract. After Mrs. Mallard had calmed down enough to assess her situation, she realized that the contract was no longer valid. “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature (Chopin pg. 548).” Without having to submit to a divorce, which would have had societal repercussions, Mrs. Mallard had gained her freedom.
With Mr. Mallard’s death came an intense relief for Mrs. Mallard. She would miss her husband, but “she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely (Chopin pg. 548).” She no longer had ties or unwanted commitments to hold her down. She was free to live her life the way that she had longed for. Mrs. Mallard allowed herself to absorb this new and exciting information before acquiescing to Josephine’s desire to comfort her. Filled with the hope and the promise of a new, liberating life, Mrs. Mallard followed Josephine downstairs, only to discover that her husband was alive. Overcome with shock, Mrs. Mallard died from a heart attack. While it was from the shock of seeing her dead husband alive, it was primarily due to her freedom, and her happiness, being taken as suddenly away from her as her husband had been.
Mrs. Mallard’s happiness about her husband’s death was not necessarily due to her husband being dead, but to the freedom that now came with being a widow. Like a good wife, though Mrs. Mallard did not enjoy the duties that came with a mother and a wife, she still adhered to what society expected of her. However, at the first opportunity of freedom, Mrs. Mallard became hopeful and content. Losing the freedom afforded to her as a result of her husband’s death, regrettably, led to her own death, thus presenting her with a different kind of freedom.