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Disappointment in Kate Chopin's Story of an Hour Essay

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Disappointment in The Story of an Hour

 

   "The Story of an Hour" is a short story in which Kate Chopin, the author, presents

an often unheard of view of marriage. Published in the late eighteen hundreds, the

oppressive nature of marriage in "The Story of an Hour" may well be a reflection of,

though not exclusive to, that era. Mrs. Louise Mallard, Chopin's main character,

experiences the exhilaration of freedom rather than the desolation of loneliness after she

learns of her husband's death. Later, when Mrs. Mallard learns that her husband, Brently,

still lives, she know that all hope of freedom is gone. The crushing disappointment kills

Mrs. Mallard.

 

      Though Chopin relates Mrs. Mallard's story, she does not do so in first person.

Chopin reveals the story through a narrator's voice. The narrator is not simply an

observer, however. The narrator knows, for example, that Mrs. Mallard, for the most

part, did not love her husband (paragraph 15). It is obvious that the narrator knows

more than can be physically observed. Chopin, however, never tells the reader what Mrs.

Mallard is feeling. Instead, the reader must look into Mrs. Mallard's actions and words in

order to understand what Mrs. Mallard feels.

 

      Mrs. Mallard is held back in her marriage. The lines of her face "bespoke repression"

(paragraph 8). When Mrs. Mallard learns of her husband's death, she knows that there

will "be no powerful will bending her" (paragraph 14). There will be no husband who

believes he has the "right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature" (paragraph 14).

Mrs. Mallard acknowledges that her husband loved her....


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life. When Brently walks in the door, though, Mrs. Mallard knows that she will have to

spend the rest of her life as no more than his wife, just as she had been. She knows that

she will never be free. This is too much for Mrs. Mallard to handle. Life had been grim

before, with her looking forward to the years ahead "with a shudder" (paragraph 19).

Now that Mrs. Mallard has tasted what life might have been like without her husband, the

idea of resuming her former life is unbearably grim. When Mrs. Mallard sees that her

husband still lives, she dies, killed by the disappointment of losing everything she so

recently thought she had gained.

 

Work Cited

Chopin, Kate.  "The Story of an Hour."  The Heath Anthology of American Literature.  Ed. Paul Lauter, et al. 2nd ed. Vol. 2.  Lexington:  Heath, 1994.  644-46.


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