Chopin presents Mrs. Mallard as a sympathetic character with strength and insight. As Louise understands the world, to lose her strongest family tie is not a great loss so much as an opportunity to move beyond the "blind persistence" of the repression of personal relationships. In particular, American wives in the late nineteenth century were legally bound to their husbands' power and status, but because widows did not bear the responsibility of finding or following a husband, they gained more legal recognition and often had more control over their lives. Although Chopin does not specifically cite the contemporary second-class situation of women in the text, Mrs. Mallard's exclamations of "Free! Body and soul free!" are highly suggestive of the historical context. The idea that both her body and soul are free indicates that marriage is both a legal, physical binding and an emotional one.
Beyond the question of female independence, Louise seems to suggest that although Brently Mallard has