Women’s Status in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” Essay

July 4, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Jun 28th, 2021

The Story of an Hour was written by Kate Chopin in the late 19th century – a time when women did not have much freedom. The main idea presented in the literary work is the concept of women lacking their independence. The story is a critique of control in marriages and dominant attitudes towards women in the society of the 19th century.

The literary work can be considered through the analysis of the story’s plotline. In the exposition part, readers are introduced to the protagonist of the story, Louise Mallard, who has a severe heart condition, and any sudden plot ‘twist’ may cause a heart attack. In the rising action, Louise’s sister Josie tells her that Mr. Mallard died in an accident. In the climax, Mr. Mallard turns out to be alive, which means that he has been thought dead by mistake. He walks in fully alive and completely unaware of the current situation. In the resolution, Louise dies because of the sudden shock of seeing her husband alive and of the disappointment.

There are four characters in the story, and Mrs. Mallard is the protagonist. Louise has heart disease, and she is entrapped between her desires and reality, which contrast one another. She is depicted as a subservient woman who has stayed in a loveless marriage for society’s sake. Louise represents women’s role in the 19th century when a woman was expected to stay home, take care of the children, and live for their husband. Louise breaks the stereotype because she does not want to do that but dreams of freedom and living for herself. She realizes it when she finds out that Mr. Mallard is dead.

One should note that the story is imbued with symbolic images with profound meanings. Heart trouble, an open window, the spring season, a latchkey, and Louise’s room are symbolic in many ways. Mrs. Mallard has “heart trouble”, and this is not accidental; perhaps, it reflects her suffering from having to stay in a loveless marriage. When her husband turns out to be alive, her heart stops. It implies that society resists women’s freedom. Heart disease indicates a marriage breakdown, which is a significant social construct. The open window and the spring season symbolize new opportunities for Mrs. Mallard. The window represents a ‘gate’ to Louise’s new self-possessed life.

When she is looking through the window, she realizes the life ahead and feels that she is a different person. The spring season symbolizes the rebirth of Louise’s nature. She is awakening after a harsh winter with her husband. The latchkey is a key to the front door, and it represents patriarchy because Mr. Mallard has the key. It means that Louise is limited because she only has a key to her room. She is not allowed to go out and come back whenever she wants, unlike Mr. Mallard. Louise’s room and her armchair represent the protagonist’s safety. It is the only place where she can feel like herself.

The analysis of the story shows that Chopin’s story represents the idea that most marriages result in a lack of independence and at least some repression of the women. Through the character of Mrs. Mallard, the story conveys ideas regarding the limitations women might feel when they are in a marriage. The message of The Story of an Hour is that life is full of irony and unexpected turns. The author uses plenty of ironies, foreshadowing, and symbolism to paint a sympathetic view of Mrs. Mallard and to comment on marriage and gender inequality in the 19th century.

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