In Kate Chopin's "The Story of An Hour" the theme is found within the concept of how someone can be trapped in a repressive, unsatisfying reality because of another's thoughtless oppression and manipulation. When combined with the contemporary society's beliefs --- presumably the later half of the 19th century for this story -- a further understanding of Chopin's thoughts and feelings can be realized. Mrs. Louise Mallard, the victim and messenger of this story, is the representation of such a person. Her relationship with her husband is so tyrannical and limiting that even death is considered a reasonable means of escape. The condition of life for Mrs. Mallard is terrible, yet for some reason she doesn't seem to come to full realization until her husband's death. This leads one to believe it was commonplace for a woman to be unhappy in her marriage and have no conventional means of escape (divorce). However, Chopin doesn't directly make that point. Chopin communicates that this could be any creature's reality. That point, rather, is inferred through our knowledge of women's suffrage history. This may be because Chopin didn't want to outwardly take that position for fear of exile herself, for fear of going against a social machine that could make her life miserable.
Through analyzing Mrs. Mallard one is approaching the theme; the theme lies within Mrs. Mallard's very existence. In the beginning, Mrs. Mallard is portrayed as a fragile woman who would have trouble excepting her husband's death: "She wept at once, with sudden wild abandonment" (SMG 467). She behaves as expected but hints at her state of being are given as you move on: "She was young, with a fair, calm ...
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...reby avoiding the entire feminist possibilities behind her theme. Do what's right for your soul no matter the circumstances, even if you inhabit a reality which makes true freedom seem impossible, there is always a way of achievement. Moreover, Chopin suggests that once true freedom is tasted there is no return to ignorance; death is a reasonable means of escape. Chopin wants freedom of will for all creatures and elegantly crafts her point into "Story of An Hour"
Angeline, Michelle. “Consciousness in Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour.’” CLA Journal 16 (November 1994): 59-64.
Bauer, Margaret. Chopin in Her Times: Critical Essays on Freedom and Feminine Identity. Durham: Duke UP, 1997.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter, et al. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Lexington: Heath, 1994.
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