Analysis - "Story of an Hour"
In Kate Chopin's "Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard, a woman "afflicted with a heart trouble" learns over the course of the story that her husband is dead. The story follows the progression of her emotions from shock and horror to a feeling of liberation and freedom, as she feels relief of the burden of being wife. A very controversial story when it was first published, Chopin's tale (like many of her works) deals with the unexpected ability of women to liberate themselves and operate separately from men (Jamil, 2009). This theme of female empowerment in a patriarchal age shines through this short story, and there are several literary elements used in the conveying of that theme. In this essay, the point of view and the character of Mrs. Mallard herself are used to convey this theme of female empowerment, and the ability of women to have their own strength independent of a husband.
The point of view in the short story is a third-person, omniscient perspective. The reader views at a distance both the thoughts of Mrs.Mallard and Josephine, as well as the thoughts of society as a whole as they judge Mallard somewhat for her relief. This omniscience conveys to us the thoughts of everyone in the story, as well as their motivations. In a way, this seems to echo the feelings that Mallard has of external forces imposing their will and oppress her freedom, as nothing is left secret or private. By peering into the thoughts, knowing both the apprehension of Josephine to tell Mallard, and Mallard's own series of reactions to her husband's death, we are participating in the invasion of privacy that Mallard fights against in her heart.
The character of Mrs. Mallard is also very well-drawn, and her thoughts and emotions fuel the theme of the story altogether. Soon after realizing her husband is dead, she overcomes her sadness and sorrow to realize the possibilities that would come to her as a result of her newfound freedom. "There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature" (Chopin, 1894). The fact that Mallard comes eventually to this thought demonstrates how inherently it is said to be by Chopin; the idea that women wish to become autonomous, free-thinking and acting beings is provided directly through the central character. It is an overt but effective way of showing what Chopin wants the reader to take away from the story.
In conclusion, despite the news of her husband's death killing her, Mrs. Mallard is shown - through point of view and the portrayal of her character - to experience great relief in the freedom she is given from married life and the shackles of lost agency. The third-person perspective allows for a greater sense of oppression and invasion of Mallard's thoughts, and the character of Mallard herself carries a substantial amount of nuance as she overcomes her own apprehension at being alone and embraces that freedom. These two literary elements combine to convey the theme that women are truly happiest when they are allowed to live by their own rules, without the imposition of will on them.
Chopin, K. (1894). Story of an hour. Vogue.
Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into Literature. San Diego, Ca. Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Jamil, Selina S. (2009). Emotions in ‘The Story of an Hour’. Explicator: 215-220. EBSCOhost.