Feminist Perspectives in a Story of an Hour

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Feminist Perspectives in a Story of an Hour A Woman Far Ahead of Her Time, by Ann Bail Howard, discusses the nature of the female characters in Kate Chopin’s novel’s and short stories. Howard suggests that the women in Chopin’s stories are longing for independence and feel torn between the feminine duties of a married woman and the freedom associated with self-reliance. Howard’s view is correct to a point, but Chopin’s female characters can be viewed as more radically feminist than Howard realizes. Rather than simply being torn between independent and dependant versions of her personality, “The Story of an Hour’s” Mrs. Mallard actually rejoices in her newfound freedom, and, in the culmination of the story, the position of the woman has actually been elevated above that of the man, suggesting a much more radically feminist reading than Howard cares to persue. Much of what Howard has to say about Chopin’s protagonists is appropriate. Her criticism operates from the standpoint that “marriage, said Chopin’s world, was the goal of every woman’s life; service to her husband and her children her duties, passionlessness and submission her assumed virtues, selflessness her daily practice, and self sacrifice her pleasure” (1). Mrs. Mallard definitely lives in a world where these gender values abound. Chopin, for example, describes Mrs. Mallard’s face as one “ whose lines bespoke repression” (439). This is obviously a direct reference to the submission Mrs. Mallard has had to yield up to the patriarchy thus far. She has always had 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” (440). Her husband’s will is describ... ... middle of paper ... ... as the martyr who dies for feminism, ultimately choosing death over marriage. This ending inevitably elevates the woman’s position to the highest status, while the men are made to look silly and unaware. When Howard asserts that “it is the woman who demands her own direction and chooses her own freedom that interests Chopin most” (1) she is right on target. Howard only fails when she chooses not to expand that vision to include the truly feminist perspectives that differentiate Chopin as a woman far ahead of her time. Works Cited Howard, Ann Bail. “A Woman Far Ahead of Her Time”. 1997. Online. Virginia Commonwealth University English Department. http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/chopinhoward.htm. Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour”.The Norton Introduction to Literature 7th Ed. Ed. Jerome Beaty, and J. Paul Hunter. New York: Norton, 1998. 438-440.
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