In Kate Chopin’s short story, "The Story of an Hour," we are told that Mrs. Mallard, the main character, has a heart condition. Then Mrs. Mallard’s sister, Josephine, tells her Mr. Mallard died in a railroad disaster. At the end of the story, Mrs. Mallard dies when her husband suddenly walks through the door. The doctor says that Mrs. Mallard died "of heart disease—of joy that kills" (Chopin 27).
Some people may agree with the doctor’s diagnosis, but I think he was wrong. I believe that Mrs. Mallard’s death was not because she was happy to see her husband, but because she was sad about the loss of her newly-found freedom. I also think Mrs. Mallard realized that love is not a substitute for the freedom to live your own life. Throughout this short story there are examples showing how Mrs. Mallard’s actions and ideas are focused on her freedom. There are also thoughts and ideas that show Mrs. Mallard realizing that love is by no means a substitute for independence.
When Mrs. Mallard was told of her husband’s death she "did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance" (Chopin 25). This shows that Mrs. Mallard was not utterly grief-stricken or she would have had this so-called "glazed-over look." She also did not deny her husband’s death, which is another natural reaction to the loss of someone you deeply care about.
After Mrs. Mallard is told of her husband’s death, she retreats into her bedroom. The scenery outside is not one of death, but one of life. This is how Chopin describes the scenery while Mrs. Mallard is looking out her bedroom window: she "could see in the open square before her house the tops of tr...
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...Mrs. Mallard’s husband walks in the front door. She looks at her husband, but all she can see is her newly-found freedom slipping away. Can you imagine the loss of such a thing as your freedom? Mrs. Mallard had just realized that she had her independence, when it was taken from her suddenly. I think the loss independence can be fatal, and in Mrs. Mallard’s case it was. After Mrs. Mallard dies, the doctor incorrectly diagnoses her death as "joy that kills." Now, I hope you can see, as clearly as I do, that Mrs. Mallard did not die of joy that kills, but of the loss of this powerful thing we call freedom.
Chopin, Kate "The Story of an Hour." The Harper Anthology of Fiction. NY: HarperCollins, 1991. 25-27.
Skaggs, Peggy. "Kate Chopin." Short Story Criticism. Ed. Thomas Votteler. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1991. 20 vols.
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