Kate CHopin's Story of an Hour

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In Kate Chopin's "Story of an Hour" the author portrays patriarchal oppression in the institution of marriage by telling the story of one fateful hour in the life of a married woman. Analyzing the work through feminist criticism, one can see the implications of masculine discourse.

Mrs. Mallard's medical diagnosis is an example of the male-dominated society in which she lives. They are able to tell her that she indeed has a heart condition, but are unable to treat her effectively, portraying how ineffectual male patriarchy is in the life of this woman in particular. Mrs. Mallard is expected to fulfill the stereotypical role of "the angel in the house." She should acknowledge that the comforts in her life are all gifts from her husband, and should make it the primary goal of her life to please him in any way. As a dutiful wife, she must be content in serving and obeying her husband and children. On the other hand, there is the "madwoman in the attic" who breaks free from the constraints set upon women. This woman is seen as a "monster" and "sexually fallen" for simply desiring to have a life outside of her family (Bressler 178). Mrs. Mallard falls into both categories. Though she feels oppressed by her husband, she stills acts as the "angel," faithfully staying by his side despite her unhappiness. However, Chopin provides the reader with small indications of the "madwoman" even before Mrs. Mallard receives the news of her husband's death. The Mallards have no children, which signifies an unfruitful marriage. According to the same male-dominated medical society that is impotent in treating her heart condition, the failure to produce children would have fallen on Mrs. Mallard (Wald 2).


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...y" in. The word "monstrous" is used specifically by Chopin to herald back to the "madwoman in the attic."

Upon seeing her husband alive and well Louise realizes that the life she has imagined is not to be. The return of Brently signals a return of the patriarchal oppression in her life, and after imagining herself as an individual and then to be denied the chance to live freely is a punishment far worse than the crime. Louise loses her identity and once again becomes "his wife." Richards once more tries to protect her, a helpless woman, by attempting to block her view from her husband, because of the fragile state of her heart. Mrs. Mallard's strengths are gone, never to be acknowledged by the men in her life. For one, brief hour she was an individual. Now she finds herself bound by masculine oppression with no end in sight, and the result is death.
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