Essay, Research Paper
Kate Chopin?s ?The Story of an Hour?.Written in 1894, ?The Story of an Hour? is a story of a woman who, through the erroneously reported death of her husband, experienced true freedom. Both tragic and ironic, the story deals with the boundaries imposed on women by society in the nineteenth century. The author Kate Chopin, like the character in her story, had first-hand experience with the male-dominated society of that time and had experienced the death of her husband at a young age (Internet). The similarity between Kate Chopin and her heroine can only leave us to wonder how much of this story is fiction and how much is personal experience.
Indeed, Louise Mallard and Kate Chopin?s lives are very similar and ironic. Louise?s life began once she came to the realization that she could live for herself. During this ?hour? she felt true joy and freedom, but her life ended abruptly as her husband walked through the door. Like Mrs. Mallard, Chopin?s writing career began once her husband died. She wrote a few collections of short stories, but when she began expressing her feminist views, the critics walked through the door and her life as a writer was over.
Life is full of surprises. We never know what is going to happen next. We can wake up in the morning happy and healthy, but disaster can strike at any minute. The cataclysms of our life sometimes give us what we were dreaming about for a long time. These life events can be so pleasant and desirable that we can even die if someone takes it away from us. This wonderful thing very often appears to be freedom: the life that you can lead as you like, decisions that you can make when you want, steps that you can take without instructions.
In ?The Story of an Hour? Kate Chopin gives us the example of a situation when the wife is a victim of family relations.
explores not only the way in which patriarchal society, through its concepts of gender , its objectification of women in gender roles, and its institutionalization of marriage, constrains and oppresses women, but also the way in which it, ultimately, erases women and feminine desires. Because women are only secondary and other, they become the invisible counterparts to their husbands, with no desires, no voice, no identity. (Wohlpart 3).
For a long time women have been considered the inferior sex and, therefore, expected to be subservient to men. She couldn?t make decisions, share her opinion, or exhibit her talents. All ?desires, voice and identity? belonged only to men.
In my research paper I want to discuss the concept of freedom for a woman in Kate Chopin?s ?The Story of an Hour?, and how the wrong news can make the happiest person in the world and then cause her death.
Relationships seem to be the favorite subject of Kate Chopin?s stories. As Margaret Bauer suggests that Chopin is concerned with exploring the ?dynamic interrelation between women and men, women and patriarchy, even women and women? (Bauer 146). In ?The Story of an Hour? Chopin deals with the subject of marriage. She illustrates the influence of family alliance on individual freedom. According to Wohlpart,?The Story of an Hour? describes the journey of Mrs. Mallard against the Cult of True Womanhood as she slowly becomes aware of her own desires and thus of a feminine self that has long been suppressed?(Wohlpart 2). The Cult of True Womanhood in the XIX century included ?purity? and ?domesticity?. The former suggested that women must maintain their virtue. The latter ? denied them their intellectual and professional capabilities (Papke 12). Being the victim of this Cult, Louise Mallard was a good example of a wife without ?her own desires and feminine self?.
The background of the story gives us the idea of what Mrs. Mallard?s marriage meant to her. We see a picture of a young well-to-do wife who seems to be very pleased with her life. We also get the impression that she was deeply in love with her husband. The news, brought by her sister and her husband?s friend Richards about his death, filled her with a big sorrow: ?She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister?s arms? (19). This was her first reaction, but, in fact, Louise reacted as most wives would react. After her initial emotions she went to another room to be by herself.
?There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul? (19).
These sentences illustrate how Louise had always felt about her marriage. The ?comfortable, roomy armchair? was her family life itself. Now we can conclude that in reality Mrs. Mallard wasn?t very happy in her marriage. Her life was like a duty ? the duty to be married. And then, when she realized that her husband was dead, her initial grief turned to the extreme happiness. She felt free. She felt free from a ?gray cloud? over her head that covered the sunshine from her. It?s clear that the shadow over her head was her husband?s domination.
In addition, Mrs. Mallard?s happiness was caused by the vision of a new future. Louise felt that she didn?t have any other life than marriage, but now she had an opportunity to begin to live in a different way. When she collapsed into the chair, at first, she felt deep grief, then, she experienced the fatigue from everything around her; at last, she realized that she is free. ?Free! Body and soul free!? she kept whispering? (20).
Subsequently, after accepting this new feeling, Louise began to feel comfortable with the idea of living by herself, and ?her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body? (20). Louise realized that happiness filled her, no matter that this feeling followed a bad event. Of course, she had not forgotten about her deceased husband. She remembered how loving he was to her and how she would miss him, but she also thought about the years of freedom that she would undoubtedly enjoy. This was a confusing time for Louise. She knew that she was going to enjoy her new life, but yet she had mixed feelings toward Brently, her husband. However, Louise could not stop thinking about her new freedom.
There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in brief moment of illumination? (20).
She understood that there would be no suppression any more, no person whom to resist, no ?powerful will bending? her personality. Filled with the feeling of happiness and vision of the free life, Mrs. Mallard came out of the room. But exactly at this moment, when everything was so excellent, the disaster struck. Brently Mallard, who was supposed to be dead, entered the house. He reentered Louise?s world and put an end to her new life. Mrs. Mallard understood that all her dreams, all visions and plans were ruined. At that instant the lightning of reality hit her mind. She realized that he returned, and everything would go on in bad old way. The same ?gray cloud? covered her and the particles of her broken dreams.
Unfortunately, Louise couldn?t tolerate the returning of her husband, and she collapsed with a heart attack. As doctors said afterwards, it was the joy that killed her. Unlike his wife, Brently felt sorrow by her mishap, although he didn?t know that she had died because of his staying alive.
Freedom. What a magical word! Any of us puts its own sense into this small combination of letters. Sometimes we realize that we can do everything and give everything in order to be free from someone or something that dominates us and influences our life. In fact, the question of freedom appears to be the most burning problem in family relationships. The cause of these difficulties lies in a husband?s attitude towards his wife: he dominates her, shapes her lifestyle, make her live for him instead of living for herself. Unfortunately, the wife accepts his behavior because she loves him and doesn?t want to lose him. At the same time, the feeling of obedience in order to prevent divorce lives in her only at the beginning of their marriage. As the years pass by, she becomes used to the subordinate mode of life that her husband has thrown on her. And after some time she finds out that she hates her lifestyle because she has devoted all her life to her husband, and the only thing she wants is freedom.
Louise?s fate was tragic. But still I think that it?s better to live an hour of freedom and happiness than to spend an entire lifetime in the shadow of the ?gray cloud?. Louise experienced real freedom that meant the absence of her husband?s domination. The irony of life killed her too early, but it seems to me that there is no need to feel pity for her. Even if it was a short hour, it was the time when all her dreams came true. She found the freedom from her husband that her lonely soul was searching for, and just for this we can consider her as a really happy woman.