Story of an Hour
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In our ifetime, we often find ourselves in circumstances and predispositions that are both overwhelming and conflicting. Such situations are like the loss of a dear one, an abusive marriage or relationship to cite but a few. In the dawn of such realities, one may be forgiven for mixed reactions towards the same. For instance, a wife whose life has been a hell of a time might feel relieved by the death of her husband, the cause of her misery. This is literally the scenario after the death of Louise's husband in Kate Chopin's short story, The story of an Hour. This essay critically explores such a weird outcome by highlighting the life of Louise, the main character in this story and it affected what happens in the whole episode.
Mrs. Louise Mallard, the messenger and victim of this story is fore grounded as being trapped in an unproductive and dissatisfying reality of existence a situation attributed to her husband's thoughtlessness, domination and exploitation. These factors coupled with the society's belief's at the time shade light on what inspired Chopin to create this moving story. The condition of Louise's living can be described as terrible. This reality, however, seems to elude her until she is faced with the news of the death of her husband. Once again, such an unconcerned attitude may illuminate the status of women in this story's setting.
One is left is left to insinuate that they had no channels of airing their grievances and as such had to compromise with the inevitable. As I have clearly uttered here, this is only an inference since Chopin does not explicitly bring out it. Even in the postmodern era, many women are in the search for freedom from their intolerable marriages. The remedy to this they believe is only through the death of their lifetime partners. It may sound outrageous but it is the dire reality and no wonder Chopin's story is still as relevant today as it was in the late half of the 19th century.
As I mentioned from the onset that this essay would be centered on Mrs. Mallard her character and how it affects what transpires in the story, it is crucial at this stage to analyses some of her seemingly ironical reactions that depict a complex character. Due to her heart condition, other characters in the story lack means of breaking the news of the death of her husband through a train accident. When finally she learns of the demise of her lover, she is at first genuinely affected by it. We learn that "She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment...".However what ensues there after brings to picture another side of her. She secludes herself and meditates on the course that her life will take. It appears she is almost anxious of embracing life afresh in a youth approach. The reader is thus left to doubt the preceding grief hence judging Mrs. Mallard as be either ungrateful or deceptive.
The narrator puts Mrs. Mallard in a disposition that portrays a kind of feeling nof freedom that she could not explain and does not even know how to copy up with it. This ambivalent feeling may pose the question of how credible her marriage had been. Had she been forced to marry a man she did not love or was it a mere quest of freedom given that it was a time of the women awakening then? Her reaction to the death of her husband may also be taken as a litmus test to the women's issues and feelings towards life and death at her time. This proposition should not be taken as a justification to her reaction.
As I continue to look in depth the character of Mrs. Mallard, I have from time to time given room to external factors to be in play. For instance it seemingly appears to the reader that in this society, men were the over riding species and consequently women were forced to do things they did not want to do or worse even to be with the men they did not really love or care for. As such her case would be one among many of that time and hence would not strike any one as a surprise. This perspective is nonetheless challenged by the lifestyle of her sister Josephine who apparently is relatively freer than she is yet they coexist in a similar set up. This leaves her to account for and defend for her reaction with respect to no cultural influence.
Through her character, Mallard highlights the underlying theme in the story, the longing for freedom. Chopin succeeds in doing so by unfolding the emotional state of Mrs. Mallard as bing demarcated into three stages: normalcy to grief, a sense of newly found freedom and finaaly into despair of the loss of the of the freedom and her demise. As mentioned earlier in this essay, The Story of an Hour was written in the 19th century. During this period, there were highly restrictive gender roles that that forbade women from living as they deemed fit. Such is the character Chopin depicts to us of Mrs. Mallard. A woman married to a man who brings tttooo her more happiness rather dead than alive. This scenario in a very strong way encompasses the social oppression of the time.
Coupled with the character of Mrs. Mallard to bring out the conflicting reaction to the death of her husband is the author's use of imagery, tone and irony. Chopin successively deploys irony through out the story since we as readers are held with the knowledge that Mr. Mallard had died of the train accident and this news form the basis of his wife's new feeling. However, we learn later that the news were untrue by the appearance of the former. This abrupt change of tune sends her wife to death thereby ending her short moment of illumination. Quite ironical, isn't it? The 'resurrection' of he who was thought to be dead causes the real death of she who thought he was dead!
In conclusion, the story ends tragically with the death of the protagonist. One sympathizes with Mrs. Mallard's heart attack despite her earlier peculiar behavior. Of worthy noting is the doctor's diagnosis that she succumbed to a 'happiness that kills'. What a satirical and ironical way of referring to this deadly disease! However, by so doing the doctor might have been suggesting that Mrs. Mallard was responsible for her death, a fact her medical condition challenges.
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