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The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin (Analysis)

The short story “The Story of an Hour” written by Kate Chopin is a powerful brief account of a woman’s emotions for an hour. The story is about Mrs. Mallard who gets the news of her husband’s sudden death in a train accident. The news was broken to her gently as she had heart disease. She goes off to her room after hearing the news. She is sad hearing the news and cries in sobs. After crying for a while, a new thought comes over her that elevates the sadness and brings happiness. The thought that brings happiness at the time of grief is the thought of freedom, the freedom from the relationship and the formalities. She thinks that her time belongs to her, and she prays for a long life to enjoy her freedom. However, when she goes downstairs, her husband enters the house unharmed, and she dies of a heart attack.

The story is succinct, ironic, and powerful. It discusses some of the realities of relationships and formalities of the time. However, everything would have changed about this story if it had happened at the present time because of the media, television, social media, and smartphones. Not only did the news come differently, but the whole relationship and gender perspectives might have changed because today women are comparatively independent.

The death of the husband in the story brings her sadness in the beginning because she loved her husband. She felt exhaustion and grief entering her soul. Her exhaustion and sobs show that she is sad for her husband. Her husband was “tender and kind” and “never looked saved with love upon her.” These lines show that Mrs. Mallard loved her husband.

However, at some point, living together regularly with him, she was exhausted. She wished to be free from the boundaries of the relationship and the routine. Living with a person for a long period without “love often” would drain the inner energy. And Mrs. Mallard had probably felt it often that among the sobs and grieves, her inner desires to be free from the bonds manifested themselves. Those desires to be free of the chains of marriage and love that held her back were wearing off with the news of the death of her husband. Even in the moment of realization, she tries to “beat it back with her will.” However, the desires and thoughts of being free were strong enough to take over and win over the conventional thoughts of sadness, grief, and mortality. As it seems morally wrong to be happy and feel elated when a loved one passes away, Mrs. Mallard felt that too, when she tried to “beat it back.” And the realization of the full notion made the moral questions “trivial” for her to consider for long. The feelings of being free were so strong that the word “escaped her slightly parted lips.” The power of elevation and sense of freedom was powerful enough to suppress all the other thoughts of morality and love.

The love she felt for him “sometimes” was not enough to “count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion.” She had realized her power and significance and got the opportunity to appreciate it after years of living with her husband. During this time of living with her husband, she thought, “With a shudder, that life might be long.” The thought of living longer was a nightmare for her, due to the restrictions and social values that the relationship was expecting from her, which had changed with the news of the death of her husband. She was relieved that she could live long without the restrictions and limitations that the marriage, love, and relationship demanded from her. She wanted to live for the first time without formalities and restrictions. Hence, she experienced for the first time that her time belonged only to her and she was free from all the restrictions and frustrations which is why the love for her husband seemed small compared to the freedom and joy she felt at the thought of being free.

However, her joy died out soon when her husband came back alive. She is disappointed at the thought of living again with the conventions, limitations, and pretenses that broke her already broken heart. He dies instantly at the sight of her husband. The writer has presented the irony as “the joy that kills.” However, if people were to witness her death in reality, not as a reader, they might have perceived her death as death because of the happiness from seeing her husband. But for the readers, it is clear that she dies because of the shock and disappointment of seeing her husband alive. She dies because of the thought of living within the restrictions, formalities, and pretense of loving her husband. She dies of the sorrow that her soul and body will be captured again. She dies because the happiness of being free lasted for a short period. Also, she dies because she cannot bear to see her freedom being chained again in the formalities and pretenses of the world. Hence, she dies refusing to live a restricted life after being aware of the joy of freedom.

The story of an hour might not have existed in the present time. If it existed, Mrs. Mallard would have lived on with her husband without realizing the joy of freedom because of social media, smartphones, and television. She could have called her husband after watching TV news and knew he was alive. Then, there would not have been the sorrow of his death, the realization of freedom, and the joy that kills. If she had been present today, she would have called her husband talked to her, and ended the story. The news of death would have been eliminated, and the whole story would have been meaningless with it, or it might have been different. Or Mrs. Mallard would have divorced her husband and lived alone because she did not love him enough to live with him for her whole life. She might have been an independent woman living according to her principles without pretenses.

Hence, the time and event of the accident and the news were necessary to provide meaning and power to this story. The author uses the two events to present the desire of women and the joy of freedom, which is above love and all other feelings and understanding. Without those events, the whole story is meaningless because most people today call their family members and talk to them instantly. Also, the news channels convey the news of an accident accurately. Therefore, she might not have been disappointed at seeing her husbands. However, it can be argued that it is better that she died after realizing the importance of freedom. Otherwise, she might not have realized the joy of freedom and self-assertion if she lived today. She might have lived a routine life doing the same thing repeatedly, pretending to love her husband more than she did. Hence, it is okay that she died refusing to live the life she despised.



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