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Story of an Hour: Character Analysis

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In the narrative “ The Story of an Hour” authored by Kate Chopin in 1894, Ms. Mallard is diagnosed with dying from heart disease secondary to the emotion of joy, meaning her heart was to weak to accept and sustain her happiness but ironically she died from the shock of loosing her happiness. The title refers to the length of time it took Josephine and Richard to make Ms. Mallard aware of her husband’s death to when she learned it was not true. The narrative descriptively follows the consuming emotions and invading thoughts she experienced during that short length of time, which ultimately preceded her unexpected death.

At first Ms. Mallard reacted to the tragic news of her husband’s death with the typical performance of a grieving widow but buried deep underneath the sorrow was something “too subtle and elusive to name.” It finally dawned on Ms. Mallard; in addition to her newly found feelings of guilt and fear that she has just acquired her previously unobtainable freedom. The death of her husband triggered her to reflect on what she truly wanted in life. She found joy in knowing that she could make her own decisions and looked forward to a future with endless self-appointed opportunities and unobligated experiences, instead of having her life dictated by oppression of a marriage in her era of time.

In this era, it appears that stereotypical roles of femininity and masculinity were widely acknowledged and established in the husband and wife relationship. The role of the wife was to stay home and maintain the upkeep of the household. The role of the husband was to travel outside the home, earn wages and provide financial security. It was considered taboo to believe or desire otherwise, especially by the wife. Decisions may or may not have been discussed as a couple but the husband had complete ruling authority to make final decisions, which was not to be challenged by the wife. Ms. Mallard accepted her role as a wife because she saw no other choice and at the time had no other options. It was wrong for her to question her role and fear prevented her from defying that role. The untimely death of her husband forced her to take an honest look at her role, decided how she felt about the role and granted her emancipation from the role. This is why she felt guilt, fear and eventually over powering elation.

In closing, with in 60 minutes of notification that her spouse was believed to be dead but proved not to be, Ms. Mallard navigated between several extreme emotional conditions like grief, guilt, fear, happiness, shock and lost with a weak heart and is believed to have died “of the joy that kills.” Contrary to the belief of the characters in the story and the final determination made by doctors, Ms. Mallard died from the loosing what she was looking forward to ; happiness. Happiness derived from seeing the bright side in the death of her husband. His death had set her free and forged a new life for her self. After she realized he was alive it shattered her dreams of impending independence and the strain of this lost on her heart killed her, but now once again death has caused her to be "free, free, free!"

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