In “The Story of An Hour, ” Kate Chopin’s use of symbolism conveys that the selfhood of a women is oppressed by the disease of marriage. Throughout the story, the author represents this oppression and the relief of it through the open window filled with spring life, the comfy armchair she relaxes in, and the heart troubles of Mrs.Millard. Each stand as a symbol for a emotional strain acted upon from the intense limiting human connection of marriage.
The open window Mrs.Millard gazes from after she hears of the death of her husband illustrates her new freedoms and opportunities awaiting her. As she watches the colors, breathes in the scents, and listens to sounds outside, joy sweeps through her body. Under her breath, she says, “free, free, free!” Now she is free from the constraints bounding down her independence and self identity in marriage. Without her husband, she can live a life where she is not expected to take care of someone else.
The spring life symbolizes her new life as a free woman. “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life.” Just like plant life in the spring, she can blossom and grow into a new The window is picture of her future, and her belief of what life will now look like without her husband. However, when she turns from the window, she leaves behind her future opportunities and wanted happiness.
The armchair that Mrs. Mallard sits in her room following the news of her husbands’ death is described as “comfortable” and “roomy.” This chair is a representation of her relaxation and relief from the strain of marriage. “Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.” Her soul is plagued by the disease of marriage, strained not only her body but her mind. However, now she can relax and she can break the tethered strings that were once her only way of living, moving, and breathing.
The location for he chair is also of importance as it is facing the open window. “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair.” This position symbolizes that she is open to change, and will allow the warm, fresh air to come in and change the atmosphere she has been inhaling. Instead of sitting in a dusky, smelly arm chair facing a dark,grungy corner, she is comfortable and relaxed, watching the warm spring life. She’s not hiding away and weeping because of this loss, but relieved and open to the next step in her life.
Luise’s heart problems are symbolic to her unhappiness with her lack of self-identity present in her marriage. We are first informed of Luise’s heart problems in first sentence. “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” This “heart trouble” represents the oppression she feels in her marriage and the after effects of it. However, once she is told her husband is dead, her heart problems are not brought up again until the very end. With her new found freedom, her blood pumps and “warms up and relaxed every inch of her body.” Her heart pumps fully and strongly, her body is warm with blood because she no longer has that oppression that was once upon her.
As the story progresses, she seems full of joy and happiness because she has no one else to take care of. However, when her husband arrived and she realized he survived, her freedom is suddenly ripped away and carried from her in a blink of an eye. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills.” With her independence taken away, her heart problems became stronger than ever, causing her sudden death. Her cause of death is symbolic towards her emotional state of witnessing her supposedly dead husband and the realization that she is no longer free. It was the sudden loss of joy and independence that she thought she finally had that ultimately killed her in the end.
“The Story of an Hour” offers an insight into oppression of women in marriage through various utilization of symbolism . Author, Kate Upton explores the depths and meaning of an open window filled spring life, a comfy armchair, and heart disease by relating them to physical and emotional strains acted upon a woman in marriage, and the reliefs and freedoms that come from without it. Such an intense connection and interaction between two people is bounded to have constraint and limitations. The need for self-identity is founded through ones ability to breathe and live freely. Without this, a life of containment is much like death itself.