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Kate Chopin “The story of an hour” Essay Sample

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Kate Chopin “The story of an hour” Essay Sample

In the 1890’s when Chopin lived, and wrote “The story of an hour” women were not equal. They did not have a life outside of their duties to the man in charge; whether it is their father, brother, or husband. The realization that her husband had not been killed in the train accident, therefor “When the doctors came, they said she had died of heart disease—of the joy that kills.” (Chopin 607) Overwhelming feelings of freedom, and then that loss of freedom are what killed Mrs. Mallard. Not what the doctors agreed to. The story opens with Kate Chopin letting the readers know that Mrs. Mallard “was afflicted with a heart trouble” (Chopin 605) and that she needed to be told of her husband’s death bit by bit, not all at once. As her sister Josephine tells her the news she weeps “at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” (Chopin 605). When all of Louise Mallard’s tears were shed then retreated to her room, unaided, and began to reflect on the message she just received.

Slowly began to realize, now, she was “Free, free, free!”(Chopin 606). While Louise was aware that she would cry when she saw her husband for last time; seeing “the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead” (Chopin 606) she did not dwell on is horrid thought. She only considered that her life “would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin 606). With this revelation in hand she began to reflect on her life with Mr. Brently Mallard. Yes, she had loved him occasionally, mostly not. Soon her sister Josephine comes to inquire about her, assuming Louise is distraught and crying herself sick instead she finds Mrs. Mallard at peace with the death of her husband. As they descend the stairs to share their happiness with Richard, the man who broke the news to Josephine, the door opens and we see that Mr. Brently Mallard was not dead at all. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.” (Chopin 607) As I read over Kate Chopin’s “The story of an hour” I was struck by how much emotional impact this story told in so few words. The story is written during a dark time for women in our history; a time when women where fighting for freedom, from the oppression of men.

I feel freedom is the overall theme of the story. When Chopin says “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance,”(Chopin 605) I believe she is showing us that Louise (Mrs. Mallard) is not the frail, heart troubled women she alluded too. But a “young {woman}, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” (Chopin 605). As the news of her husband’s death settles on her she is not saddened, but overcome with the feelings of freedom. For women of the 1890’s the world revolved around men, their fathers, and then their husbands, not them. So for Chopin to write a story that insinuated that a woman could “live for herself” (Chopin 606) was just not acceptable, especially considering it was penned by a woman. I feel this is why Chopin chose to allow her protagonist, Louise, to die at the end of her story.

The common thought is that Mrs. Mallard died because she was so happy to see that her husband was not in fact dead, but very much alive. I do not feel this is the case. In my opinion, she died because of the sudden realization her new found freedom was lost. For that short hour she was free from the oppression of the 1890’s and “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 606) In writing “The story of an hour” Kate Chopin effortlessly illustrated the life and death of an oppressed married woman living in the 1890’s. We must not take our freedom for granted, for we do not live in the 1890’s, and we are no longer oppressed, thanks in part to characters like Mrs. Louise Mallard. Live life to the fullest, you never know when your hour is up.

My audience will be college students studying women’s history, mostly males. Most men think they know about history, but I feel that they need to know about “HERstory” also. Anyone with a high school history education should have enough knowledge to understand that women where oppressed for hundreds of years. As they read through my summery and response to “the story of an hour” I hope that they will learn a bit more about how women of the 1890’s felt about, marriage, life, and death.

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