During the 19th century, it was traditional and common sense that women were subordinate to men in terms of status and opportunities. Women had no rights and men dominated their lives and everything in it. However, Kate Chopin, a woman herself, writes a story about an ill woman who yearns to be free from her husband’s grasp. Chopin’s short story, “The Story of an Hour”, written in 1894, can best be understood by considering the cultural and historical background, the author’s life, the irony, symbolism, and other literary devices within the story, and the final insight the story leaves the readers to reflect on. An insight into “The Story of an Hour” can be perceived by examining the cultural setting of the story.
Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” most poignantly balances the dual focus of her work, describing the incipient awakening of Mrs. Mallard, and thus exploring the possibility of feminine identity, even while, ultimately, denying the fruition of such an experience. Like all of her works, this short story reacts to a specific historical framework, the Cult of True Womanhood, in its indictment of patriarchal culture. As Barbara Welter notes, in the nineteenth century, “a women judged herself and was judged by her husband, her neighbors, and society” by the attributes of a True Woman which included, especially, “purity” and “domesticity” (372). The concept of purity, because it suggested that women must maintain their virtue, also, paradoxically, denied the... ... middle of paper ... ... Story of an Hour.’” CLA Journal 16 (November 1994): 59-64. Bauer, Margaret.
She used the notion of death and the thought of her father, whom she never got to be acquainted with, in a number of her stories. In The Story of an Hour, she transferred what she felt about the death of her father into the main character, Louise Mallard, from her short story. Mrs. Mallard had just lost her husband in a railroad accident and she knew that she didn’t adore him with all of her heart. Kate Chopin wrote taboo tales that challenged the principles of society. She wrote one of the most unnatural books in American Literature during the Realism Period, The Awakening.
“Romantic Imagery in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.” American Literature 43.4 (1972): 580-588. Rubin, Louis, ed. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997. Turner, Frederick Jackson.
New York: Norton, 1994, 159-73 Papke, Mary E. Verging On the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. Showwalter, Elaine. Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book. Feminist Criticism Essay.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston : Twayne Publishers, 1985. Taylor, Helen.
Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1990. Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. Showalter, Elaine.
Though patriarchal attitudes dominated the minds of the American people during the nineteenth century, Kate Chopin’s work encouraged women to look at their circumstances from a critical point of view, one in which women were unfairly treated, unable to fully embrace their feminine ideas, and express their own desires. In addressing how her female characters cope in various domestic settings, Chopin show how they can have a voice and exercise agency along with the consequences of their “rebellion” from social norms. Chopin was able to write the short stories as such due to her own unconventional upbringing and late lifestyle. Before she was known as Kate Chopin, she was born as Katherine O’Flaherty in St. Louis, Missouri on February 8, 1851 to Thomas and Eliza O’Flaherty. Her mother was of French-Creole descent, while her father was a native of Ireland.