Kate Chopin was born in Missouri and she has represented the rebellious spirit of her era. She led an unconventional lifestyle, which was depicted in all her writings and was the kind of woman who dared to stand up for her true beliefs and ideas. According to her biographers and literary critics, ‘Kate Chopin’s writing style was a result of her passionate love for the writing style of Guy de Maupassant.’(1996, Le Marquand). Chopin was influenced by Guy de Maupassant who wrote about people’s everyday lives, but she went a step forward. She created her own unique way of writing. She seems to have devoted her observation skills and her writing technique to the life of the women of her time. All her writings are considered to raise questions on the issue of women’s treatment by society. Her moving to Louisiana when she got married, provided her with a miniature of the way social life was organized. She is witnessed to have been spending her days walking along the streets of Louisiana, smoking cigarettes and observing women and the way they spent her lives. It appears that Kate Chopin was a lot of steps ahead of her era. She had managed to look into the faults of a society which was built upon the men’s superiority. She seems to have seen behind the social curtains of what was supposed to be socially accepted at that time. Her writings prove her desire to raise criticism and critical thinking towards the way certain issues of people’s lives were treated, like marriage, personal freedom, independence, sex, equality. The position of women in the social environment of her time, in combination with the feelings which most women experienced due to their being maltreated or simply suppressed by the social norm, seem to be the main thematic pylons upon which her stories are built and produced. Her short story “The Story of an Hour” is considered to be one of her most famous stories, which prove her interest in exploring the psychological situation of women of her era.
In ‘The Story of an Hour’ readers come in touch with the story of Louise Mallard who is married to Bentley. The story opens with Louise being told by her sister, Josephine that her husband Bentley is dead. Bentley’s name has appeared on the list of the victims of a railway accident. Louise Mallard is a woman who suffers from heart trouble. This is why the terrible news of her husband’s death is told to her with great caution. Louise’s reaction seems to be the expected one. Readers follow her in her room where she seems to be seeking for her being isolated and grieving on her own. And then the inversion and great surprise overflows the narration and structure of the story. Louise stands on her own in front of her open window. She is looking outside her window and it is as if this is the first time she realizes the beauty of nature and her surroundings. It is such a beautiful day and her grief is in total contrast to the beauty of her surroundings. Louise seems surprised at herself. Although she is in terrible pain and she suffers from her husband’s loss, she seems able to admire beauty and desire to keep on watching it. This is a great surprise, which makes her feel awkward, since she does not appear to really know how it is possible to experience such contrasting feelings. But the clock is ticking and as time passes by, readers witness the real inversion of Louise’s character. It is obvious that this inversion of which Louise had no idea of happening, is equally experienced while it is happening, both on behalf of the main heroine and on behalf of the readers.
This is the most innovating element of this short story, in terms of Chopin’s talent to build the structure in such a way that both the readers and the main leading figure experience the same feelings, step by step. There is a kind of epiphany for both the readers and the main heroine. Louise realizes that her soul has been longing for her ability to enjoy beauty. She comes face to face with her own personal truth, which had been buried, deep inside her soul. She was married to a kind man who took care of her but she had always felt such a slave of their relationship. It seems that Louise has been living in a totally conforming environment, which has been forbidding her to admit to herself her love for her soul’s independence. She has always been serving the role of a happily married wife without ever wondering whether she was happy with something like that or if she had any needs from anything else. But now, everything seems to be falling into their pieces. Her husband’s death is certainly a bad incident but it is also her chance to keep on living free from any kind of obligations. It is this feeling of freedom which overwhelms Louise. This freedom is the main thematic core of Chopin’s story. Within a few minutes, Louise comes face to face with her own personal truth. She feels relieved that her husband has died because she has been living in total deprivation of her own personal freedom.
Chopin proves to be the farmer who plants the first seeds of the movement of Feminism. Feminism is the theoretical context within which people start realizing that women have their own freedom and rights, equal to the ones of men. Taking into consideration that Chopin lived in an era in which women were expected to get married and bring up their children, it is easily understood why Chopin brought a major difference within the literary circle of her period. She decided to focus on the fact that women are entitled to their wish to lead a life with elements which are far from the conventional ones. They are entitled to having numerous needs for creation, enjoyment and freedom. Chopin had strongly felt the need to show that women ought to be self-defined not through the figure of their husband. This is what she focused on with her short story “The Story of an Hour”. It only took an hour for both the protagonist and the readers to realize that Louise could be self-autonomous and this was her desire, regardless of the love she had for her husband. There is one truth which ought not to be neglected. Human relationships create dependence on each other and are automatically turned into the worst enemy of people’s independence. It probably takes lots of thought and effort so that human relationships can keep the high level of individuals’ freedom. Besides, no happy relationship can exist if people are not happy as individuals as well. But life turns out to hide many more surprises than people could ever imagine. Louise gets out of her room knowing that she has prayed on her own in her room to live a long life so that she could enjoy her freedom. But the door opens and Bentley comes in. there was a great misunderstanding and Bentley had not travelled after all so he was not killed in the accident. The hour has just reached its ending. Louise dies at the appearance of her husband. Her death is interpreted upon the shock of happiness upon her seeing her husband alive. After all, she had heart problem so sudden surprises were a possible reason for her heart’s stop working. But Chopin has shared with her readers a whole hour within which the real story of Louise has been told and described in detail. It is the death of her inner wish which causes her physical death. And the worst of all is that most people will never realize the real reason of Louise’s death. Could that be because people are not still ready to look into the real truth hiding behind human relationships? This is the indirect question addressed by Chopin and this one of the questions which are not still today clearly answered on behalf of all. It may take fractions of a second to realize the lies under which you have pushed yourself to keep on living. But it certainly takes much more than just an hour to realize, accept and bring the truths hidden inside yourself, upon to the surface. It takes much more than an hour in order to learn and live according to one’s personal needs and truths without feeling suppressed by the social norm and without being badly judged. This is what Chopin highlights and this is an ethical principle, which ought to be one of people’s compasses.
""The Story of an Hour"" "The Story of an Hour" Virginia Commonwealth University, n.d. Web.
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