The Story Of An Hour by Kate Chopin is a story that strikes close to home for most married women even in today’s world of equal rights and women’s liberty. It is my belief that the central theme of the story delves on the seeming lack or loss of identity and one’s self upon taking on the role of wife and homemaker. You see, a single woman during the era the story is set in was usually trained to be only one thing, a wife, other than that, a woman could be considered useless. The women then were often forced to surrender their freedom, independence, and liberties upon marriage. It is never simple being a wife in any day or age. My analysis of the story is that the character of Louise in the story felt a sense of freedom upon her husband’s death because of all the sacrifices that she had to put into making her marriage work. In the next paragraphs, I shall be discussing the key points I have noted within the story that I feel support my assertion.
The opening paragraph hints at the heart trouble that Mrs. Mallard suffers from yet makes no reference to the actual disease. If anything, it gives us a glimpse into what might be a troubled married existence that she chooses to deal with by being passive and simply accepting the things that she cannot change. Hence the term “Heart Trouble”. But, it is evident in the next lines that there is no heart ailment involved. She is very strong emotionally and physically and seems to have been hiding this particular aspect of her personality for a reason not known to many.
It would seem that Mrs. Mallard was actually a high-spirited and freedom-loving person who stifled her individuality in order to play the perfect wife to a man who did not care for her as anything more than his housekeeper. Something that is indicated by the open window and comfortable armchair in her room. Her marriage was an exhausting life long activity for her and her only respite came from the small window of freedom offered by her bedroom furniture.
She considered the death of her husband to be a sign. A signal that she was now free to be who she was before the marriage. When she married, she hid away her individuality and allowed her husband to mold her into that which he needed her to be. Something she did without question or protest, but obviously, not with acceptance. For during this time, the husband was the lord of his manor and the woman merely a foot soldier.
“The patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds” indicates the personality within her which sometimes, though she tried hard to control it, managed to find a way through and let her experience individuality. Something that she probably experienced during the long absences of her husband. The writer indicates that Mrs. Mallard was a young bride and therefore prone to emotional instability and a need for reassurance. As a submissive wife, she had learned to follow only orders and not think for herself as it was a man’s world where the husband made all the decisions for his wife and family. The blank stare that she showed upon receiving the news only confirmed this analysis that I had slowly been developing as I read the story.
The death of her husband signified a freedom that she so longed for and never thought she would regain. Such an experience can literally drive a sane person to the brink of madness just because of the sheer sense of joy being experienced. Mrs. Mallard was not immune to this and she displayed it openly and those who did not know of her behind the mask had no idea that she was actually celebrating the return of her freedom and independence.
In the end, when she finds out that her husband is not dead but alive, her death is not brought about by the shock of the news but rather the sadness that her freedom and independence were so short-lived. Her death stemmed not only from a broken heart, and lost expectations, but because she would choose actual, physical death, over the death of her soul and individuality in life.