ISC ‘The Story of an Hour’ By Kate Chopin : Feelings of Mrs. Mallard


The story of an Hour: Mrs. Mallard’s feelings

Question:  Referring closely to the short story “The story of an Hour”, state Mrs. Mallard’s feeling on hearing the news about her husband’s death. 

Answer:  However it is quite difficult to state so complex feelings of Mrs. Mallard after hearing the news of her husband’s death, but Kate Chopin has successfully presented it in her story ” The Story of an Hour”.

     Mrs. Mallard in the story was confined in an unhappy marriage. She had forgotten her true identity as a woman years ago. Mrs Mallard is known in the begining of the story only as a wife, very little is known about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s relationship. Even she is unsure whether or not they had been happily married.

” And yet she had loved him sometimes : Often she had not. What did it matter !” 

         Mrs. Mallard suffered from ” heart trouble” therefore she was given the news of her husband’s death hesitatingly with great care. Her sister Josephine informed her ” in broken sentences veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. “

       When a wife loses her husband especially from a sudden accident, she is supposed to feel shock and grief. But on hearing this tragic news Louise at first ” wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arm. ”  Richard and Josephine interpreted it as her hysteric expression of grief over her husband’s death. Many women would at first be stunned,  unable to accept the significance of the news but here Louise’s response was quite unusual according to the society’s expectations.

        When the storm of grief had spent itself Louise went away to her room alone. She sat in a comfortable chair facing an open window. She saw in the open square before her, the tops of trees shaking with the new spring life and the air was seen filled with
” delicious breath of rain” . All these symbols initiated a feeling of freedom which she yearned for a long time.

      Here Chopin indicated that Louise was trapped in an unhappy marriage, where she has lost her freedom, identity and self assertion. Louise has forced herself  to submit to the will of her husband because society expects such behaviour from her.

      As Louise focussed on the patch of the blue sky, Louise paused. She sensed something coming to her and she was waiting for it fearfully. As she began to realise what it was, she strove “to beat it back with her will” yet its force is too powerful to oppose.

    ” When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath “free, free, free!”

       Her pulse beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body. The fear she had felt a moment ago was replaced by a sense of vitality. This intense joy dismissed any guilt she had about feelings so happy.

     Any guilt she felt about feeling happy about her husband’s death is powerless to stop the life force within her that is surging forth. In fact, even her love for him and his love for her was meaningless when compared to her ” self assertion which she suddenly recognised as the strongest impulse of her being !” 

      The ” bitter moment ” of her husband’s death helped her see
” a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely “. And she welcomed her free days with open arms.

     Bentley’s death made Louise to see something she hasn’t seen before and might likely never seen if he had lived : her desire for self determination.

   ” She would live for herself “,without anyone else’s will bending her own will. ” Free ! Body and Soul free !” She kept whispering.

      Louise imagined “spring days , summer days and all sorts of days that would be her own”. She enjoyed the vision of the future. Louise recognised the idea of attaining selfhood and identity as a woman. She possessed control over herself and her life.

    She wanted her life to be long, contrary to the day before when she feared it would be long.

     On continuous requests of Josephine to open the door, Louise came out and ” like a goddess of Victory ” she walked down the stairs with her sister.

      But as soon as she saw her husband alive, she was shocked. The possession of self assertion was so strong a force , that when she found  her husband alive, she immediately collapsed. She realised that she would have to give up her newfound freedom and return to the slavery of married life where she would be controlled by her husband.

      Her weak heart could not bear this tragic burden and she died. While Brently Mallard, Richards, Josephine and doctors might have believed that the joy of seeing her husband alive was the reason for her death  but the reality was far away from it. 

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