Essay, Research Paper: Story Of An Hour And Women

Literature: Kate Chopin

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Throughout history the roles of women has changed dramatically. Women have been
enslaved, put down and their rights taken away from them. Women have slowly but
surly evolved into the individuals ones sees today in public office, law firms
or even the five o’ clock news. However this evolution did not occur over
night, it took time and can be made apparent in places one might not think to
look. The roles of women in short stories have changed from a typical voiceless
human being to one that dominates a story. In the short story “The Story of an
Hour” by Kate Chopin, the character Mrs. Mallard demonstrates a transformation
that is necessary for a woman to have. The character Mrs. Mallard defies the
traditional role of women in the 1800’s. In the beginning of the short story
Mrs. Mallard is depicted as a weak and fragile woman who suffered from heart
trouble. When the news of Mrs. Mallard’s husband’s death was made apparent,
Richards, a family friend and Mrs. Mallard’s sister were very delicate in the
way they broke the news to her. Once the news was broken to her, it seemed as if
Mrs. Mallard would act to her husband’s death in the traditional way “ she
wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sisters arm” (Chopin 11).
However, Ms. Mallard defies the traditional role of the women by overcoming the
feeling of sadness and instead replacing it with the feeling of joy. Mrs.
Mallard realizes that her husband’s death should not be seen as an atrocity
but instead as an act of freedom. This is made apparent by the words Mrs.
Mallard uttered to herself in the room; she gradually lets the words “free,
free, free!” escape from her mouth. This act relinquishes Mrs. Mallard from
the subservient role she played for her husband and into her own person. To some
Mrs. Mallards reaction to her husband’s death may have seemed distasteful but
to others it is seen as a step in the right direction. Mrs. Mallard is not
joyful about her husband’s death but joyful about the newborn freedom she
receives with the news. This is shown by her thoughts later on “she knew that
she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death”
(11). However in the same paragraph her husband’s feelings about her are made
obvious with the line “…the face [Mr. Mallard’s] that had never looked
save with love upon her” (11). One can assume that Mr. Mallard never really
expressed his love towards his wife that left her with these feelings inside.
Mrs. Mallard’s reaction is just a woman freeing herself of the oppression her
husband has placed on her. Through the course of the story, Mrs. Mallard
developed from a weak individual to someone who just gaining a sense of self.
Mrs. Mallard started looking into the future, a future that she would live for
herself “She saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come
that would belong to her absolutely. And then she opened and spread out her arms
out to them in welcome” (11). Mrs. Mallard turned from powerless to someone
who had absolute power in all of about 10 minutes. The character of Mrs. Mallard
exhibits the conscious and subconscious feeling that women hold towards men. The
reaction Mrs. Mallard has to her husband’s death should not be viewed upon as
appalling or viscous but as liberating. Mrs. Mallards feeling that “there
would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for
herself” is the feeling women should have while there husband are alive, women
should not have to wait for a man to die in order t gain some sense of
independence (11). When Mrs. Mallard discovers that her husband is indeed alive,
she dies of heart disease. The doctor diagnosed her death as “a joy that
kills”, however one can assume her death was provoked by the realization that
her newfound freedom was suddenly gone. In the short story “The Story of an
Hour”, the main character Mrs. Mallard, develops into her own person in a
short matter of time. The death of her husband made her realize that she was
living life for the wrong person; instead of living it for herself she was
living it for her husband. Throughout the story Mrs. Mallard transcends from
Mrs. Mallard to Josephine, her name. With the surprising sight of her husband
came the realization that she was about to transform from Josephine back to Mrs.
Mallard.
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