“The Story of an hour” written by Kate Chopin is a depiction of awareness of a true sense of freedom and individuality. However, this freedom is just in the imagination of the character. The sense of freedom is never seen critically as it can be by the readers of this story.
A husband is reported dead in a train accident. Wife’s sister is afraid to tell her the news but she manages to inform her. The wife, Louise, at first, feels shocked and sadness but then a different feeling starts overcoming her. After a while, she realized that these feelings are not at all associated with sadness, rather it is the excitement of freedom and independence and a sense of a new life in front of her. The way she says, “Free!” to herself imply her enthusiasm for living a new life with full freedom. She was deep in her thoughts of independence and her happiness that her husband, Brentley, reappears. This reappearance kills wife’s joy which ultimately becomes the cause of her death too. The story consists of an irony which lies in the death of the wife by “the heart disease of joy that kills” (Chopin).
Do women feel free when their husbands die?
This question can be raised from reading “The Story of an hour.” But this has a two-way answer; it can be a yes or a no. It obviously depends upon the type of marital relationship. But in the story, Kate Chopin has asserted upon the fact that all the marital relationships are to some extent domineering. And this dominating nature of marital ties is not limited to only one party. Instead, it can be true for both the partners as Louise thinks, “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). Louise considers herself free and independent in all aspects. Her body and soul both will be free from anyone’s control or influence. “Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering (Chopin). This instance clearly depicts the happiness and excitement of the wife when she comes to know about her husband’s death. But it does not mean that Louise had a bad experience with Brentley, or she liked someone else and hated her husband. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead” (Chopin). Though Louise had no issues with her husband, she still felt that sense of freedom upon his death. This is due to that deliberate control of a partner in another’s life when two people are meant to be married. Same was the case with Louise.
The negative view of marriage:
The happiness of a wife upon her husband’s death is often seen as a negativity. In the society, nobody thinks the other way round that maybe the husband would have been a bad person due to which the wife is showing such sentiments. In “The Story of an hour” this negative image related to marriage can be seen. Due to this thought of being perceived as wrong or negative, Louise understands that her feelings of excitement must remain hidden. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination (Chopin). The death of Louise also takes place as she saw her freedom and happiness shattering away by the reappearance of her husband which was the evidence of her extreme joy.
The absence of love and affection:
In this marriage, the presence of love and affection is also doubtful. Louise is unable to comprehend whether she really loved him. And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not (Chopin). But now this comprehension is of no use. She was just immersed in the thoughts of being free and prayed that her life is long enough to enjoy this freedom.
We can say that marriages devoid of love and affection lead to happiness and freedom when the other partner goes away. Such marriages are mostly taken as a burden on shoulders on both the partners. They use the tool of doing compromise in order to keep living together.
Thus we can say that the ties of marriage are not only felt for a husband or the wife alone. Rather, it can be restricting for both of them. It’s not about that a woman feels happy when her husband dies, the opposite can also take place. The story does not depict this happiness to be the cause of some negativities in the characters of Louise or Brentley. Rather, it’s just about getting rid of that control or dependence which she felt in his presence. Therefore, after Brentley’s death news, she prepared herself for the new free life. The concept can be perceived as negative by the narrow-minded people of the society who do not consider woman’s feelings important, and some can take it to the level of feminism. Hence the question “Do women feel free when their husbands die?” is not applicable to all the marital relations and can be applied the other way round.
“The Story of an Hour Themes.” LitCharts, www.litcharts.com/lit/the-story-of-an-hour/themes.
Chopin, Kate. The story of an hour. Blackstone Audio, 2013.