Chopin’s The Story Of An Hour Essay, Research Paper
Character Analysis of Mrs. Mallard in Kate Chopin s The Story of an Hour
Kate Chopin s The Story of an Hour explores a woman s unexpected reaction to her husband s assumed death and reappearance, but actually Chopin offers Mrs. Mallard s bizarre story to reveal problems that are built-in to the marriage. By offering this depiction of a marriage that confuses the woman to the point that she celebrates the death of her kind and loving husband, Chopin challenges her readers to look at their own views of marriage and relationships between men and women. Each readers judgment of Mrs. Mallard and her behavior eventually stems from their own personal feelings about marriage and the influences of expectations in our society. Readers of different genders,
ages, and marital experiences are, probably going to react differently to Chopin s description of the Mallards marriage, and that is very true of my response to the story that is compared to my father s and grandmother s responses.
Marriage makes boundaries between people that make them unable to
communicate with each other. The Mallards marriage was really crippled by both their inability to talk to one another and Mrs. Mallard s determination that her marriage was made by a 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. But she doesn t recognize that it is not just men who put their will upon women and that the problems in marriage affect men and women equally. To me, Mrs. Mallard is a very sympathetic character, and I appreciate her will to live out the years to come that would belong to her absolutely. However, I also believe that she could have tried to improve her own situation a little, either by reaching out to her husband or by letting go of the
marriage altogether. Chopin uses Mrs. Mallard s tragedy to show aspects of marriage that are harmful and, in this case, even deadly. Maybe the Mallards relationship should be taken as a warning to other people: sacrificing your own happiness in order to satisfy marriage expectations can poison your life and even destroy entire families.
When my father read The Story of an Hour, his reaction to Mrs. Mallard was more antagonistic than my own. He saw Chopin s story as a timeless battle of the sexes, serving as more proof that men will never really be able to understand what it is that women want. Mrs. Mallard endures an obviously not satisfying marriage without ever explaining to her husband that she feels trapped and unfulfilled. Mrs. Mallard lets the question go of whether or not she is experiencing a monstrous joy as irrelevant, but my father did not think that this was a trivial question. He believes Mrs. Mallard was guilty of
a lot of joy, because she selfishly celebrates the death of her husband without ever allowing him a chance to understand her feelings. He believes that Brently Mallard should have been seen as the most victimized character in the story. Mr. Mallard is a good, kind man, with friends who care about him and a marriage that he thinks he can depend on. He never looked save with love at his wife, his only crime was coming home from work one day, and still he is the one who is denied at the end of the story for reasons he will never get to understand. Mrs. Mallard s enthusiasm for her new freedom is kind of understandable, but according to my dad, Mr. Mallard is the character that is most
deserving of sympathy.
Maybe not surprisingly, my grandmothers interpretation of The Story of an Hour was a lot different from mine and my fathers. My grandmother can identify with Chopin s characters. Her first reaction, besides a support for Mrs. Mallard and her situation, was that the story demonstrates the difference s between the ways men and women related to each other a century ago and the way we relate today. Unlike my father, who thinks Mrs. Mallard is too passive, my grandmother thinks that Mrs. Mallard doesn t even know that she is feeling tied down until after she is told that her husband is dead. I think that in
1894, divorce was so scandalous that it wouldn t have been an option for Mrs. Mallard, and so her only way out of the marriage would have been one of their deaths. Being pretty young, Mrs. Mallard probably considered herself stuck with a long life in an unhappy marriage. She is a dutiful wife to Mr. Mallard, as she is supposed to be, she cries with sudden, wild abandonment when she hears the news of his death, she locks herself in her room to deal with her new situation, and she has a fatal heart attack when she sees her husband arrive at home. Of course, the male doctors would think that she died of the
joy that kills , but nobody could have guessed that she was unhappy with her life, and she would never have wanted them to know.
Interpretations of The Story of an Hour seem to be different according to the gender, age, and experience of my readers. While both male and female readers can sympathize with Mrs. Mallard s hard times, female readers seem to relate more easily to her troubles and are quicker to clear her of any responsibility for her unhappy situation. On the other hand, male readers are more likely to feel compassion for Mr. Mallard, who loses his wife for reasons that will always remain entirely a mystery to him. Older readers
probably understand the strength of social forces and the difficulty of trying to deny peoples expectations about gender roles in general and marriage in particular. Younger readers feel like Mrs. Mallard is too quiet and that she could have improved her life immeasurably if she had taken the initiative to improve or end her relationship with her husband. All in all, how individual readers respond to Mrs. Mallard s story show their own ideas about marriage, society, and how men and women communicate with each other.