Three Readers Response to The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
Length: 1192 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)
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My belief on marriage is a sacred vow taken by two people which joins them in union. Most people carry the belief that marriage should occur only when two people are in love; although this belief is common it is not always the case and people marry for a variety of reasons. In the short story "The Story of an Hour" Kate Chopin suggests that in the case of Mrs. Mallard and Mr. Mallard, love was not a deciding factor for their reason to get married. Though the response of three readers, one being myself, we will explore the character of Mrs. Mallard and the idea of love in her marriage. Kate Chopin has given little detail about the Mallards and therefore left much to the imagination of the reader. Although there are similarities in details between readers such as: point of view, setting, and character, each reader brings new perspective and ideas. This type of analysis of the text allows a richer and more knowledgeable outlook; not only by enhancing ones own ideas by introducing new ones.
The first reader has a guided perspective of the text that one would expect from a person who has never studied the short story; however the reader makes some valid points which enhance what is thought to be a guided knowledge of the text. The author describes Mrs. Mallard as a woman who seems to be the "victim" of an overbearing but occasionally loving husband. Being told of her husband's death, "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance." (This shows that she is not totally locked into marriage as most women in her time). Although "she had loved him--sometimes," she automatically does not want to accept, blindly, the situation of being controlled by her husband. The reader identified Mrs. Mallard as not being a "one-dimensional, clone-like woman having a predictable, adequate emotional response for every life condition." In fact the reader believed that Mrs. Mallard had the exact opposite response to the death her husband because finally, she recognizes the freedom she has desired for a long time and it overcomes her sorrow. "Free! Body and soul free! She kept whispering." We can see that the reader got this idea form this particular phrase in the story because it illuminates the idea of her sorrow tuning to happiness.
Although the reader had some important and illuminating ideas we can see that the text still guides reader when it comes to identifying the time as being early 1900's because of the use of telegrams and reader identified the family as "probably being middle class" because they lived in a two story well furnished house.
The second reader is also guided by the text; however he manages to find insight in areas of the text that are not apparent or guided. The reader also enhances and reiterates important ideas that are guided by the text. When asked about Mrs. Mallard and her marital situation, the reader replied in a unique way by jumping right into the component of the story where Mrs. Mallard was given the news of her husbands death. The reader identified that there was little or no sorrow from Mrs. Mallard, instead there was shock this was a result of her happiness being confronted by the standards by which she was suppose to morn. Once Mrs. Mallard calms down after being given the news of her husband's death, "She [goes] away to her room alone." The reader identifies "her room" as being only her own and one not shared lovingly with her husband. The reader also points out that when Mrs. Mallard goes to her room she goes to the armchair to seek some comfort. It would be assumed that her bed would be her place of comfort, yet there is no mention of the presence of a bed in the room. The reader believes that when Mrs. Mallard sits into her armchair her true feeling of a new life, though the big window facing an open world, come out. The reader also pointed out that Mrs. Millard made good when she descended with her sister in that she keeps her public life and private life separate this shows she is still able to keep her feelings private and display the expected emotions in front of her friends and family.
The third reader (myself) will give not necessarily a better interpretation of the text but one that is guided by class discussion and studied material. At first we are told that Mrs. Mallard has heart trouble and I found that there was little significance of having this disease other than as a reason for her to die at the end of the story. Because this story takes place in the 1800's when medicine was not as advanced I am lead to believe that perhaps that heart dieses was caused by the inner suffering of a woman stuck in a non-loving marriage. It is evident that she is oppressed by the bond of marriage. Although it is never said her thoughts on her husband proves the point that the marriage was one of unhappiness. Brentley "had never looked save with love upon her," which shows he to felt little for his wife and she just loved him "sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter!" she was finally free of the burden of this façade of a marriage. When she hears of the news too her husband's death she seems to be in a great amount of grief but as we soon see this grief is quickly pushed aside and she is sitting in her comfortable armchair looking out in to the "blue sky," "the clouds," and "new spring life." The new spring life symbolizes the new life she is about to embark on now that she is free from the weight of her nuptials. The character of Mrs. Mallard is complex and yet her life is so censored, this is revealed through her private thought; it seems as though this day of "victory" was in her thoughts before, which is exposed by the fact that she is able to recover from her husband's death so quickly. Mrs. Mallard believes now that she is free of her husband's grip no one can stand in the way of her freedom; this turns out to be true after all when her husband walks in and she drops dead literally. In the end Mrs. Mallard is "free, free, free!"
Through the response of three readers of "The Story of an Hour" we are better able to understand the short story. Each reader brought different ideas of how they thought the character of Mrs. Mallard was and how the marriage affected it. Although the ideas were different about the belief of what the story portrayed about the character and the marriage, there were certain parts of the story, such as time and social status that were guided by the text because of the obvious interpretations in that area of the story.