ENG125 – Introduction to Literature
Professor Joan Golding
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber both captured my interest from the very beginning. These short stories represent gender roles and marriage. They both are about married couples with controlling mates. “The Story of an Hour” is about a young married woman and how she reacts to the news of her husband dying in a train accident. The story takes place in the home of the young woman, Mrs. Mallard. Several things took place within an hour but “the joy that kills” (Clugston, 2010) made me more interest to find out what was happening to Mrs. Mallard. Mrs. Mallard died of “joy that kills” (Clugston, 2010) because she was happy after finding out about her husband and he coming home was the hour of her life. I believe she chose to die happy than live miserably with her husband because she was so happy thinking she had her life back only to go downstairs and see Brently walk in. “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” was about a husband who continuously daydreamed about the life he wanted. Both of these stories have symbolism of the unhappy mates whose being dominated by their spouse and the desire to escape it. The difference in the stories is in “The Story of an Hour”, Mrs. Mallard is dominated by her husband and she sees an escape through his death. In “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, has a controlling wife and escapes from her through his daydreams. In this paper I would like to discuss the elements of setting, plot, characters, and conflict found in these stories that will bring out the theme of the will to escape.
“The Story of an Hour” takes place in a single hour in the home of Mrs. Mallard. The very beginning explained that she had heart trouble and the news of her husband’s death would be given to her as gently as possible. Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition may have come partly from stress caused by her dominating husband and their less-than-ideal marriage (cited in Cummings, 2010). In paragraph 8, Chopin says the young woman’s face “bespoken repression”; in paragraph 14, she tells us that a “powerful will” was “bending” Mrs. Mallard. In paragraph 15, Chopin adds, “Often she had not “loved her husband” (Clugston, 2010). Mrs. Mallard first reaction to the news is to cry but then she separates herself from everyone by going upstairs to be alone. Crying is natural and expected when bad news is received. Mrs. Mallard’s crying didn’t last long. She may have gone upstairs to be alone because she needed that time to clear her head and think without anyone trying to comfort her. “There stood, facing the open window”…(Clugston, 2010, 4p). Mrs. Mallard must have been thinking at this point while she looked out the window. “She could see in the open square…with the new spring life” (Clugston, 2010, 5p). The season was springtime which according to Michael Cummings symbolized the new, exciting life that Mrs. Mallard thinks is awaiting her (Cummings, 2010). Although Mrs. Mallard was enjoying the fresh air, the open window symbolized escape for her. A mental and emotional escape from her past problems. The mention of twittering sparrows, and patches of blue sky suggested that while Mrs. Mallard was looking out the window and listening to this, she was coming into view of her new life. She was now independent. The thought made her feel guilty but she had her freedom and she spoke it when she whispered, “Free, free, free!”(Clugston, 2010, 11p).
“Of course she had loved her husband. Well sometimes” (Clugston, 2010) led me to believe that her and Mr. Mallard’s relationship wasn’t the best. She seem to have been controlled by her husband when she says”…all sorts of days would be her own (Clugston, 2010). She was so excited about her freedom that it didn’t matter whether or not she loved Mr. Mallard.
“Josephine, her sister, was kneeling before the closed door...