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A Feminist Perspective of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour Essay

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A Feminist Perspective of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour


Kate Chopin employs the tool of irony in "The Story of an Hour" to carefully convey the problem inherent in women's unequal role in marital relationships. Chopin develops a careful plot in order to demonstrate this idea, one not socially acceptable at the end of the 19th century, and unfortunately, a concept that still does not appreciate widespread acceptance today, 100 years later as we near the end of the 20th century. Louise Mallard's death, foreshadowed in the initial line "Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with heart trouble" takes on quite a different meaning when the plot twists and the context of her sudden death is presented unexpectedly, not upon her shock at her husband's death, but instead in her inability to endure the fact that he lives.

While Chopin's employment of irony presents a socially unaccepted concept in a more acceptable format, it is the author's use of perspective that increases the impact of her message. Chopin's point might be lost, perhaps entirely, if the reader were not informed from Louise's viewpoint. While the other characters are oblivious to her actual joy in death, although it is described as such "When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease - of joy that kills," their definition of this joy equates to her love for her husband. In contrast, because Chopin writes from the perspective of Louise, we understand that the intermittent love she feels for her husband, love itself dismissed as the "unsolved mystery," pales in comparison to the joy she feels upon the discovery that she can now live with the "possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being."
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...for his wife Louise, Chopin writes to stress the problematic assumption inherent in an unequal relationship in which one individual exercises their "powerful will" to bend others.

Louise Mallard finds personal strength in her husband's death, ready to face the world as a whole person "She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday (prior to her husband's death) she had thought with a shudder that life might be long." The strength conveyed in the image of Louise carrying "herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory" is unmistakable. However, the irony that her husband lives, and therefore, she cannot, conveys the limited options socially acceptable for women. Once Louise Mallard recognizes her desire to "live for herself," and the impossibility of doing so within the bounds of her marriage, her heart will not allow her to turn back.


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