Analytical Essay Of The Story Of An Hour

Upon hearing the news of Brently Mallard's tragic railroad accident death in the newspaper office, his friend Richards rushes to the Mallards' house, where he and Mrs. Mallard's sister Josephine gently inform the weak-hearted Mrs. Mallard of Brently's death. In response, Louise Mallard weeps openly before going to sit alone in her room.

Exhausted, Mrs. Mallard sits motionless in her armchair by the window and looks at all the beauty of the outside world, occasionally sobbing. She is young, with a calm and strong face, but she stares dully into the sky while she waits nervously for a revelation. Finally, she realizes despite her initial opposition that she is now free. Terror leaves her eyes while her pulse beats faster.

Mrs. Mallard knows that she will mourn her loving husband's death, but she also predicts many years of freedom, which she welcomes. She begins planning her future, in which she will live without the burden of other people. She loved her husband, more or less, but love is nothing to her when compared to independence, she decides, as she murmurs, "Free! Body and soul free!"

Josephine asks Mrs. Mallard to let her enter because she is afraid that the grieving widow will make herself ill, but Mrs. Mallard is actually imagining the happiness of the years ahead. In fact, only the day before she had feared living a long life. Triumphantly, she answers the door and goes downstairs with her arm around Josephine's waist, where Richards awaits.

At this moment, Brently Mallard comes in the front door, having been nowhere near the train disaster. Richards moves in front of him to hide him from seeing his wife when she cries out. By the time the doctors arrive, she has died from "heart disease," purportedly from "the joy that kills."

Analysis

Chopin tackles complex issues involved in the interplay of female independence, love, and marriage through her brief but effective characterization of the supposedly widowed Louise Mallard in her last hour of life. After discovering that her husband has died in a train accident, Mrs. Mallard faces conflicting emotions of grief at her husband's death and exultation at the prospects for freedom in the remainder of her life. The latter emotion eventually takes precedence in her thoughts. As with many successful short stories, however, the story does not end peacefully at this point but instead creates a climactic twist. The reversal--the revelation that her husband did not die after all-- shatters Louise's vision of her new life and ironically creates a tragic ending out of what initially appeared to be a fortuitous turn of events. As a result, it is Mr. Mallard who is free of Mrs. Mallard, although we do not learn whether the same interplay of conflicting emotions occurs for him.

Chopin presents Mrs. Mallard as a sympathetic character with strength and insight. As Louise understands the world, to lose her strongest familial tie is not a great loss so much as an opportunity to move beyond the "blind persistence" of the bondage 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.

Beyond the question of female independence, Louise seems to suggest that although Brently Mallard has always treated their relationship with the best of intentions, any human connection with such an effect of permanence and intensity, despite its advantages, must also be a limiting factor in some respects. Even Louise's physical description seems to hint at her personality, as Chopin associates her youthful countenance with her potential for the future while mentioning lines that "bespoke repression and even a certain strength." Although neither her sister nor Brently's friend Richards would be likely to understand her point of view, Louise Mallard embraces solitude as the purest prerequisite for free choice.

Mrs. Mallard's characterization is complicated by the fleeting nature of her grief over her husband, as it might indicate excessive egotism or shameless self-absorption. Nevertheless, Chopin does much to divert us from interpreting the story in this manner, and indeed Mrs. Mallard's conversion to temporary euphoria may simply suggest that the human need for independence can exceed even love and marriage. Notably, Louise Mallard reaches her conclusions with the suggestive aid of the environment, the imagery of which symbolically associates Louise's private awakening with the beginning of life in the spring season. Ironically, in one sense, she does not choose her new understanding but instead receives it from her surroundings, "creeping out of the sky." The word "mallard" is a word for a kind of duck, and it may well be that wild birds in the story symbolize freedom.

To unify the story under a central theme, Chopin both begins and ends with a statement about Louise Mallard's heart trouble, which turns out to have both a physical and a mental component. In the first paragraph of "The Story of an Hour," Chopin uses the term "heart trouble" primarily in a medical sense, but over the course of the story, Mrs. Mallard's presumed frailty seems to be largely a result of psychological repression rather than truly physiological factors. The story concludes by attributing Mrs. Mallard's death to heart disease, where heart disease is "the joy that kills." This last phrase is purposefully ironic, as Louise must have felt both joy and extreme disappointment at Brently's return, regaining her husband and all of the loss of freedom her marriage entails. The line establishes that Louise's heart condition is more of a metaphor for her emotional state than a medical reality.

Kate Chopin: "The story of an hour" - An Analysis


Analyse av Kate Chopins novelle "The Story of an Hour"

Back in 1894, the American writer Kate Chopin wrote the short-story "The Story of an Hour". Chopin, born O’Flaherty, wasn’t renowned as a writer during her time, but she has achieved recognition in the 20th century especially with her 1899 novel "The Awakening". Her stories about strong women have really been paid attention to in relation to this century’s sexual liberation debate.

 

This short-story revolves around what goes through a person’s head when informed that a close family member has perished. However, I wouldn’t say that this is the theme of the story, which I’ll get back to. Louise Mallard is a young, yet married woman who suffers from heart trouble, and that’s why her closest relatives feel that they have to break the news to her as gently as possible. Immediately after hearing the shocking news, Louise starts crying, and storms into her room. Since Louise spends the majority of the short-story in her room, this is the setting of the story. Noone really knows early in the story how Louise really feels about her husband dying. But the author certainly gives some evident hints.

 

The fourth paragraph’s content, which revolves around the period of time where Louise has just entered her room, is fairly surprising. Everyone would expect Louise to weep with agony and pain, but instead she sits calmly down: "There stood, facing an open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair." The interested reader will already here discover that something is terribly wrong, since a word like comfortable is used. A newly widdowed woman would probably not look upon a chair as comfortable shortly after receiving the terrible news; the most likely reaction would rather be to smash the chair into pieces! From her position in the armchair, she suddenly starts studying the nature outside the window: "The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves." All these descriptions are beautiful images of life, making the reader quite confused until Louise’s reaction is explained. As Chopin puts it: "She said it over and over under her breath: ’free, free, free!’" This feeling; freedom, is obviously something Louise hasn’t felt for a really long time. She now rambles on about that she loved him, but now she is perfectly happy and more than that with the fact that she had regained her freedom. As Chopin puts it; "What could love (..) count for for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!" Louise now has more positive energy and vitality than ever, and even calls herself a "Goddess of victory". Her sister, Josephine, is worried about the amount of time Louise has spent in her room all alone, and anxiously knocks on the door, asking whether she’s alright. Feeling better than ever and imagining a new life filled with happiness and freedom, she willingly opens the door and descends down the stairs.

 

Josephine and Louise are, together with Brenty Mallard (her husband) and his friend Richards, the only characters mentioned by name in the short-story. And according to the guidelines in which a short-story optimately should follow, having few characters with personal traits is entirely correct. The author doesn’t tell a lot about Richards, but the other characters can be personalised easily. I won’t describe Louise here, since it’s fairly easy to decide what she’s like by reading the rest of the analysis. It seems to me like Josephine is a typical sister, and presumably the oldest of the two. She’s extremely worried when it comes to exposing Louise’s fragile heart to pressure and sudden shocks and surprises, which generally shows that she loves her sister wholeheartedly, and doesn’t want something bad to happen to her.

 

Apparently, Brenty doesn’t treat his wife particularly well. Louise is unhappy with her marriage, and doesn’t feel a bit free. Generally, women weren’t liberated during the 19th century. Traditionally, they did all the hard work in the house. Female liberation wasn’t put on the agenda until the 1960’s. But I think it’s all fair and square to say that Brenty lacks some humanitarian values that are important to be successfully married. The end of the short-story comes extremely surprising to the reader and is fairly unimaginable to Louise, hence her reaction. Her husband didn’t die in the railroad disaster after all; he stands at the bottom of the stairs, eagerly waiting to embrace his seemingly dear wife with love and compassion. The fact that Brenty returns is clearly the turn in the plot.

 

Spotting her supposedly dead husband again makes Louise’s heart condition unstable, and she dies momentarily. This is undoubtedly the climax of the plot, although the situation is in the very end of the story. Chopin’s use of words in the end of the short-story is pretty neat: "When the doctors came they said that she had died of heart disease - of joy that kills."’

 

I’d say that this short-story has a certain ironic feel to it. The way Louise handles the tragic news is ironic, because the reader expects her to react in an entirely different way. And to top it off, ironic-wise, Louise is the person that dies in the end. Kate Chopin has written the story using an omniscient point of view, which works well. Her style of writing is gripping, and she describes the characters and the scenery thoroughly well throughout the story. The fact that she uses an omniscient viewpoint but nevertheless saves the information that Brenty wasn’t a participant in the railroad accident at all until the end of the story shows that a story written using an all-knowing style doesn’t necessarily have to end predicably.

 

So now even the title of the short-story makes sence - it describes the one hour she spends dreaming about her new life in freedom, from getting the incorrect death message until tragically passing away herself. She lived in the true sense of the word, with will, ambition and joy, for one hour only. In my opinion, the theme of "The story of an hour" is that women that lived a hundred years ago didn’t feel free. They felt that they weren’t able to do what they wanted to, since their family duties took too much of their time. Another possible theme is the irony of fate, since Louise’s dreams eventually took a wrong turn and turned out to become her destiny.

 

Women had, as aforementioned, literally no rights whatsoever at the time this short-story was put on paper. The situation has changed almost dramatically today. This short-story was written at a time where it was common sense and tradition that women were inferior to men in status and opportunities. Today, women can be found almost everywhere; even in prominent positions in large corporations. They have struggled to achieve more opportunities and rights, and they’ve come a long way, but they haven’t quite reached their target. In the story, Louise desperately wants to get more freedom, but it’s once she thinks that her husband has died that she starts dreaming about it. That shows that she has an enormous respect for her husband, and doesn’t dare to do anything that breaks or is in variance with his rights, restrictions and groundrules. Today we have procedures and laws regarding women’s rights when it comes to feeling trapped in a marriage and urging to end it. Getting a divorce from one’s husband is about as easy for women nowadays as opening a can of beer. Nevertheless, Chopin’s story tells a lot about the situation women were in a century ago, and its morale has blossomed lately following the recent liberation debate. "The Story of an Hour" has probably inspired a great deal of women to oppose their husbands if they feel like their marriage isn’t quite as jolly as it ought to be.

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