The Story of an Hour Short Essay
“The Story of an Hour” is a wonderful short storywritten by Kate Chopin in 1894. At the time it was first published, it attracted huge criticism. This is because Chopin here tells the story of female liberation which is not the kind of idea that could not be graciously tolerated in late 19th century. In the form of her husband’s death, Louise Mallard involuntarily feels an intense sense of gratification.
It should be remembered that marriage was considered an indissoluble tie in those days for women. This meant that if a woman was not happy in her marriage, she did not have the right to break that tie. So, when Mrs. Mallard places her search for identity above her marriage, she is looked down upon by society. This essay aims to investigate the extent to which Mrs. Mallard succeeds in her quest for her identity.
One thing is clear that marriage dissolved Mrs. Mallard’s personal identity and instead gave her another. This new identity was not what she really wanted. So, she yearns for her own identity which she is able to find in her husband’s death. Before, the idea that life might be long scared her. But, the news makes her breathe “a quick prayer that life might be long” (Chopin 97). There is an uncontrollable and irrepressible joy of freedom and she tries to “beat it back with her will” (Chopin 96). But, this joy is so warm that her heart pounds with it. Her heart is perfectly aware that only in this freedom can she now recover her identity. Her heart knows that the time has finally come to enjoy at length what she longed after for years.
But, Mrs. Mallard’s mind fights with the voice of her heart and plainly tells her to suppress her building emotions and grieve. However, the “dull stare in her eyes” (Chopin 96) tells another story, the story which holds the possibility to live free. She is of the view that all her husband’s actions, even if he meant only well, just served to box her in instead of making her happy. She felt smothered and oppressed by all that marriage had to offer her. For example, she repeats to herself again and again, “Body and soul free!” (Chopin 97). This suggests that when she finally sees a chance at having her own identity and living by herself, she is ecstatic.
The biggest obstacle standing in Louise’s way is her husband, Brently Mallard. She thinks that after his death, she will have her own long lost identity and her heart beats strongly with this thought. But, when Brently reappears in the end, her heart trouble reappears with such intensity that her heart fails and she dies. It is the acute grief of feeling some prized possession in your hand which got lost a long time ago and then, watching it slip out of your hand and leave forever that kills her. She did find what she frenetically searched for. But, she sadly loses it again at the end of the story.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Wascana Anthology of Short Fiction. Eds. Ken Mitchell, Thomas Chase, and Michael Trussler. University of Regina Press, 1999. 96-97. Print.