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Literay Anaylisis: Story of an Hour

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Mrs. Mallard in the “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, goes through a wide range of emotions in what probably felt like the longest; and the last hour of her life. The story begins with her learning of the sudden tragic death of her husband and moves through grief towards acceptance and the visualization of her new freedom. The story abruptly ends when she faces her husband; who never actually died, in their home, and she herself dies suddenly due to the realization that her new freedom never existed. Throughout this hour, she deals with various aspects of life conflict. With a weak heart, her family gently breaks the news to her that her husband is dead. The emotional conflict that Mrs. Mallard is faced with is intense. She is immediately overwhelmed by the news, “she wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment,” but quickly changes her tune when she begins to dream of her freedom. “…she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin, 1984). As she sat in her room with the very real understanding that she would not be tied down by her husband forever; she dreamed of how promising her life could be. Instantly she began to view her life in a new light. Even the sights and sounds outside had a more positive sound to them, “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life… countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Chopin, 1984). This is a metaphor for her life as well, “As nature returns to life after winter, so Louise’s emotions return to life after a prolonged winter of patriarchal confinement. Furthermore, just as nature awakens instinctively, so do Louise’s repressed emotions” (Jamil, 218). Emotionally she was being transformed from a grieving widow to a young, rejuvenated, energetic woman with a wide variety of traits to offer the world. While sitting in her room with the door shut; Mrs. Mallard experienced physical conflict. “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been” (Chopin, 1984). She could sense a wave overcoming her, reaching out to her that she could not stop. It was as if it came in the window like the wind. It was calming and reassuring to her. The feeling of her sitting in her room gave her peace with the death of her husband and the courage to move forward with her life. “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. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin, 1984). This explains that she knew she would grieve his physical death, but saw the light at the end of the tunnel that would give her the freedom that she always wanted. She knows that physically she is young, smart and talented. She is held back by the fact that she is a married woman. “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” (Coplin, 1984). She is conflicted knowing what possibilities lie ahead of her, and the only way to make them obtainable is to be single. Before Mrs. Mallard learned of her husbands’ death she could hardly imagine living day-to-day life. She went through the motions of a good housewife to keep Mr. Mallard happy. “And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not” (Chopin, 1984). She loved him because deep in her heart she knew that was morally the right thing to do. She experienced moral conflict; yearning to be free and independent versus a loyal, faithful wife. Behind the closed door, when she spoke the words, “free, free, free” it was as if life was being pumped into her, and she was being reborn. She could finally, morally, feel comfortable wanting her independence now that her husband was dead. In the late nineteenth century, women who were married were expected to stay at home. It was only the single women who began to venture into the working world. “Jobs opened up in factories, retail establishments and offices, giving single women new options. Education became mandatory for both genders in many states…Regardless of these changes, throughout the nineteenth century, 95% of married women remained ‘at home.’” (Hartman). The only way for her to experience the lives other women had was to be single, and she longed for it. In the opening sentence of the story, Mrs. Mallards heart condition is mentioned. Ironically it is also what ultimately what kills her. When the doctor arrives, they say that she “had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills” (Chopin, 1984). Ultimately the conflicts that she endured emotionally, physically and morally were too much for her weak heart to handle once she realized that her husband had not died. She was overcome with emotions knowing that her freedom she so badly wanted was just a dream. Her dreams died instantly; and so did she.

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