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Essay on The Story of an Hour

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For women, the 19th century was a time of inequality, oppression, and inferiority to their male counterparts. A woman's social standing depended solely on her marital status. For these reasons many women were forced to lead a life of solitude and emotional inadequacy, often causing depression. In Kate Chopin's short story "The Story of an Hour," setting plays a significant role in illustrating the bittersweet triumph of Mrs. Mallard's escape from oppression at the ironic cost of her life.
Chopin sets the story in the springtime to represent a time of new life and rebirth, which mirrors Louise's discovery of her freedom. Louise immediately takes herself to a room where, "facing the window [sat] a comfortable, roomy armchair" (Chopin 470). The news of her husband's death leaves her feeling lost and confused, seeking answers about her future. In her husband's lifetime, she was "pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach to her soul," but once left alone to gaze out of the open window and to observe the "patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds," she recognizes freedom for the first time (Chopin 470). Initially, she fails to fully comprehend the mysterious yet promising beginning to her new life, but soon welcomes it as, "she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window" (Chopin 471). Getting a glimpse of her life with an absolute and fresh freedom gives her the strength to abandon a life of solitude and to "spread her arms out [. . .] in welcome" (Chopin 471). Just as springtime is a fresh beginning to a new year, Louise's discovery of sovereignty is a hopeful promise to a new life.
Aside from the springtime, Chopin creates an atmosphere that parallels ...


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...e could explore her own intuitions and be her own self, and like most women, it was a dream she had longed for since birth.
Unfortunately, her hope for long years and many beautiful spring days was abruptly ended in an ironic twist. Unbeknownst to herself and her company, Mr. Mallard had survived, and within an hour the promises of a bright future for Mrs. Mallard had both began and came to an end. Her grievous death was misconstrued as joy to the others: "they said she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills" (Chopin 471). This statement embodies the distorted misconception that a woman lives only for her man. The audience, in fact, sees just the opposite. To Louise her life was elongated at the news of her husband's death, not cut short. Throughout the story, one hopes Louise will gain her freedom. Ironically, she is granted freedom, but only in death.




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