When I first read Kate Chopin's "The Story Of An Hour", my instinctual response was to sympathize with the character of Mrs. Mallard. This seemed to me to have been intended by the author because the story follows her emotional path from the original shock upon hearing of her husband's supposed death to her gradual acceptance of the joy she feels in anticipating her new freedom to the irony of her own sudden death. However, one fact cannot be overlooked when judging my personal reaction to this piece. Because this story's theme is basically an issue of what a woman has the right to expect from her life, the fact that I am a woman living in a society where freedom and independence are valued above all else weighs heavily on the way I look upon the actions of Mrs. Mallard and also on the way I judge Chopin's message.
It is interesting to note that even in the story's opening, before Mrs. Mallard's response has run it's full course, her reaction to the news of the accident which is presumed to have killed her husband is already being contrasted to the one which society would deem appropriate. It is mentioned that "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance"(pg 275, P3). Though upon discussion of the story I found that this sentence had placed a kernel of suspicion in the minds of some as to the authenticity of Mrs. Mallard's display of emotion, I had taken once, with sudden, wild abandonment"(pg 275, P3) endeared her to me all the more because I felt that it meant she was very much in touch with the workings of her heart andimmediately at their mercy, and this made her reacti...
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.... As a woman who wants what these women wanted, I find this hard to grapple with. I appreciate the fact that this story was written in a time when feminism was unheard of, but I wish that Chopin, who had been liberated enough to conceive of a character who would think like Mrs. Mallard, could also have imagined a situation in which she could have survived.
Chopin, Kate. "The Story of An Hour." The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. Ed. R.V. Cassill and Richard Bausch. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2000. 106-109.
Cixous, Helene. "Laugh of the Medusa." Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory And Criticism. Ed. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1991.
Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 1988.
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