In Kate Chopin’s short story “The Story of an Hour,” the role of women is depicted through Louise Mallard’s view during the 18th and 19th century. Kate Chopin was born in St. Louis Missouri on February 8, 1850. At the age of four her father died in a train accident which is similar to the supposed death of Brently Mallard in the short story. Characters in Chopin’s stories are based around diversity such as Southern Belles, Arcadians, Creoles, Mulattos and Blacks and take place in Louisiana (“Story’).
Growing up, Chopin was raised by her mother and great grandmother, this is evident in her writing, as most of her writings are centered around women. When “The Story of an Hour” was first written, a company called Century refused to publish Chopin’s short story due to the story being formed around female independence, it is said that” [Century] had zealously guarded the feminine ideal of self-denying love, and was that very summer publishing editorials against women’s suffrage as a threat to family and home” (Ewell 273).
The company did not like the idea that Chopin’s writing was targeting feminine independence and they thought that it would threaten everyone. Marriage in the 18th- 19th century, freedom and self-assertion as well as self-discovery play important roles within the women of “The Story of an Hour. ” Marriage in the 18th- 19th century was expected to be one in which the husband had all the jobs and made all of the money and the wife was dependent on them which made it seem like marriage was a “form of slavery” (Jamil 216).
As a wife, you were not only expected to be dependent of men but to be virtuous and accept any kind of convention and that their husband had the right to impose their private will(Jamil). Divorce was a rare thing during this time, and if it were to occur the man immediately receives custody and ownership of the children and all property they had owned. The independence of women was not accepted during these times and “women were not granted the right to vote in political elections until 1920.
Obviously then, a female writer [such as Chopin) who wrote of women wanting independence would not be received very highly, especially one who wrote of a women rejoicing in the death of her husband” (Hicks 269). Chopin was not liked much because she wrote against what everyone believed was correct. Most people in this period of time thought that females should do everything at home and not go against the husband. In “The Story of an Hour,” it gives the details of an ordinary life and studies the life when “… the boundaries of the accepted everyday world are suddenly shattered and the process of self-consciousness begins. (Papke 271). When the story begins we are told that Mrs. Mallard’s husband has died and she grieves about it by locking herself into her room. From there she realises that, now that her husband is dead she no longer needs to live by his commands, and that she can live freely. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” focuses on the awakening of a woman in the late 19th century, and the the dramatic last hour of her life and “while Chopin associates with sound health, the nineteenthcentury patriarchy associates them with ill health” (Jamil).
This means that because women independence was not accepted they did not want to see her illness as a marriage problem so they consider it a health problem. This also shows that women were expected to live the way others wanted them to. Instead of being able to live as themselves they had to play a different character to fit he game. In the beginning, many will think that her heart disease has to do with her health and physical conditions. But after reading the ending you will start to think that the problem is actually her husband.
After awhile it hits her that she’s free now, this makes her happy and she goes down the stairs only to see her husband alive and she dies from the supposed heart disease. After she dies the doctors arrive and they say that she dies from a “joy that kills”(Chopin 8), but they say that “even the respected medical profession misinterprets her collapse indicts the conventional view of the female devotion and suggests that Louise Mallard is not the only woman whose behavior has been misread… After awhile it hits her that she’s free now, this makes her happy and she goes down the stairs only to see her husband alive and she dies from the supposed heart disease. After she dies the doctors arrive and they say that she dies from a “joy that kills”(Chopin 8), but they say that “even the respected medical profession misinterprets her collapse indicts the conventional view of the female devotion and suggests that Louise Mallard is not the only woman whose behavior has been misread… ” (Ewell 273).
Because Mallard’s heart disease had nothing to do with health, I think that is the reason why the doctors concluded her death like that. In reality they had no idea she felt like that about her marriage. The doctor would have never been able to find out about the real reason behind her collapse back in the 19th century. When Louise is told the news of her husband’s death she immediately folds into a female’s embrace instead of into the arms of the man that heard the news first. This implies that somewhere is Louise’s heart she accepts the news and is almost ready for change. Papke) After experiencing the new found freedom she realises now that “there would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin 6,7).
Louise is basically saying that by her husband being dead, there is no one that can control how she lives, in other words she is somewhat happy that her husband has been declared dead so that she does not have to live the way he war not have to live the way he wants her to. When Louise locks herself into her room and experiences the freedom she is also locking out the social conventions and is awakening to individual elements and her body responds to her emotions. She experiences an awakening from the life that she had lived, of being a type of slave to a new emotional freedom, one where she can live to be herself. Louise goes through physical changes and she opens herself to the, within this the emotions connect with her soul and through that she feels a rhythmic connection (Jamil).
Kate Chopin’s story is built around woman’s feelings about marriage and is an extreme example of self- assertion and its reveal of movement in the reader and which Louise does not surrender to it, “she refuses to surrender, as the patriarchy would require her to do at Brently’s return. TO be fully alive, then, it is to engage in heightened consciousness, to observe and connect with the world around one’s self”(Jamil). Even though her freedom disappeared after an hour, she still got to be free.
Louise experienced something she would never experience again, Even is she did not die as soon as her husband returned, she would never get to taste freedom again and it was the birth of one’s individual self. The joy she received was gone when her husband reappears she is aware that her freedom is now gone and the shock mixed with realisation kills her (Jamil). Chopin’s writings are a series of events in which the truth is present the whole time, but the final truth is can not be extracted because the truth is always changing, and what happens is never final (“Chopin”).
For example when she first hears the news “She did not hear [it] as many women would have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance” (Chopin 4). Louise’s first instinct is to grieve like many women would have done, but it also says that she did not hear the story how others would have heard it. This could mean that from the beginning something sparked in her. This spark could have led her to the final realisation of freedom.