Write a character analysis about “Story of an Hour”.
“Story of an Hour” is a reading by Kate Chopin. Chopin was an American writer who was born in the Mid-West but married and ended up moving and living in Louisiana. She wrote mostly about women in Louisiana creole society. And women in creole society, once married, did not divorce their husbands. Once they married, they married for life. And if a woman did divorce her husband, she was looked down upon and frowned upon in society. So an unhappy marriage could be very difficult for women who saw no way out.
“Story of an Hour” opens with Josephine, Louise’s sister, and Richards, a family friend, trying to figure out how to tell Louise that Brently, Louise’s husband and the supposed love of her life, has been involved in a horrific train accident and is dead. It also is revealed at the beginning of the story that Louise has a heart condition. So they are trying to figure out how to tell her such that she does not become overly excited and go into cardiac arrest. How do you tell someone, without hurting them, that the love of their life has been killed in a tragic accident? Is death ever easy, especially death of a spouse? Finally, they tell her, and the story says that she began “to weep with wild abandonment” and falls into her sister’s arms. All that Louise does in this moment is normal, expected behavior. You would expect her to weep at the sudden loss of her husband. Next, the story says that Louise runs up to her room and locks herself in the room. Her sister, Josephine, runs after her to make sure that she is okay. Remember, Louise has a weak/sensitive heart, and her sister does not want her to become too overwhelmed with emotions. Josephine knocks on the door for Louise to open the door, but Louise does not. Eventually, Josephine goes away to allow her sister time to get herself together and grapple with this newfound situation and shift in her life. The reader is allowed to go into the room where Louise is and experience what Louise is feeling. The story describes the room with the window, the sights and sounds outside the window, and the big armchair in the room. She falls into the armchair and begins to exhale. Eventually her lips begin to move and at first, the reader is unable to understand what she is saying. But the more her lips move, the more audible she becomes. Finally, we are able to hear what she is saying–“Free!” And that’s where the problem begins. Everything Louise has done up to this point is normal, expected behavior. Even locking herself in her room is expected behavior. However, uttering the word “free” at the demise of her husband is completely unexpected and abnormal. What would make a woman who just heard the love of her life has been killed in a tragic accident utter the word “free?” The story does provide some hints at to what the issue may have been for her. The story talks about how she “loved him sometimes, oftentimes she had not!” So she loved him, but she may not have been in love with him. In the story, she talks about how she knew that she would weep again when “she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death and the face that never looked save with love upon her.” Basically she is saying that he was not abusive to her in any way, physically or verbally. The only thing he ever had for her was love. He was a kind, loving man/husband who provided for her and took care of her. So why didn’t she want him? Why didn’t she love him? Brently seemed like the perfect husband. The text says that “she saw a long procession of years that would belong to her absolutely.” Louise wanted her freedom to live her life on her own terms. Women, especially during this time, were raised to become somebody’s wife. A woman’s only way out and up was through marriage. It was believed that every woman needed a man and if she did not have a man/husband, her life would be difficult and impossible. So many of these women married these men, not because they loved them, but because she did not have any other option. The home was considered the woman’s separate sphere, her separate domain. The duty of the wife was to cook, clean, and have children. Is that right? Do women have brains? Can women think and be more than just a housewife? Does our society today yet believe and subscribe to this ideology about women? Louise wanted more than just cooking his food and washing his dirty clothes. But if she is a wife who is not working, is it her duty to cook and clean? If he is providing for the entire house, should she do things in the home without him asking? And should she do whatever he asks her to do?
Marriage comes with expectations that should be discussed before you walk down the aisle. Today, women have many more options, but during Louise’s time, she didn’t. So what do you do? Louise, like most women during that time, married these men looking for a better life with the hope that they would outlive them. So when she heard of her husband’s death, Louise, when she got inside the bedroom, believed that she had made it. She would no longer have to live for him, she could now live for herself. She was going to gain everything that they/he owned. And should she? Should she get all of his stuff, and was it hers? In the room, Louise realizes her new life and got herself together to live her new life. She opened the door and begin to descend the staircase to move forward with her life. Josephine and Richards meet her at the bottom of the stairs to help her move forward with whatever the next steps were. While standing at the bottom of the stairs, they hear the front door jolt as if someone was trying to enter the home. The door opens, and Brently, her husband, walks through the door. Her husband had not been killed in the accident. He was just late getting home from work. He didn’t even know that there had been an accident. Louise immediately goes into cardiac arrest and dies. The doctors examined her at the hospital and came to the conclusion that she “died from the joy that kills.” The doctors who examined her, who probably would have been male, said that she was so overjoyed at seeing her husband alive that it sent her into cardiac arrest and she died. We know the truth. The real truth is that she was so upset that he was not dead that she went into cardiac arrest and died. Brently being alive took away her freedom and her newfound life.
At the beginning of the story, Mrs. Mallard is portrayed as a woman who is somewhat frail and dependent on others. She has a heart condition, and her sister and husband’s friend try to break the news of her husband’s death to her in the most gentle way possible. However, as the story progresses, it becomes clear that Mrs. Mallard is
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Mrs. Mallard’s emotional journey is the centerpiece of the story. At first, she is overwhelmed by grief, but then she begins to feel a sense of relief and joy. This is a complex reaction, but it reflects the reality of many women’s lives in the late nineteenth century, when the story was written. Women were expected to be devoted wives and mothers, and they had little control over their own lives. Mrs. Mallard’s response to her husband’s death shows how oppressive this situation could be.
Ultimately, Mrs. Mallard’s joy is short-lived, as her husband unexpectedly returns home alive and well. The shock of seeing him again causes her to have a heart attack and die. This ending is tragic, but it also reinforces the idea that Mrs. Mallard’s life was constrained and limited by her marriage.
In conclusion, Mrs. Mallard is a complex character who embodies the struggles and contradictions of many women in the late nineteenth century. Through her emotional journey, Chopin shows how societal expectations can limit individual freedom and happiness.