In her book, The Faces of Eve, Judith Fryer writes, "In the last year of the nineteenth century a woman succeeded where men had failed: Kate Chopin created . . . a woman who is a person." Chopin’s short story, "The Story of an Hour," openly portrays the true feelings of a woman who feels trapped inside her marriage. In the period in which she lived, there were only two alternatives for her to achieve the much desired personal freedom—either she or her husband must die!
Chopin’s story was controversial from the beginning. It was rejected for publication by both Vogue and Century magazines as "a threat to family and home." Vogue later published the story only after another of Chopin’s stories did well publicly.
"The Story of an Hour" begins with Louise Mallard being gently informed of her husband’s death in a train accident. Sister Josephine was careful not to upset Louise too greatly because of the latter’s heart trouble. Did Mrs. Mallard suffer from an actual physical ailment or an emotional, psychological trauma? I lean toward the second theory. Louise felt trapped inside her marriage—having no personal freedom—and the only way she could express this was through a physical illness.
Mrs. Mallard weeps with "sudden, wild abandonment" and then disappears to be alone. Mrs. Mallard’s sister Josephine and Mr. Mallard’s friend Richards believe she needs to be alone in her grief. She retreats to a comfortable chair in front of an open window—a place the reader is led to believe she frequently spends time in. As physical exhaustion overtakes her, Mrs. Mallard can do nothing but gaze at the scenes taking place outside the window. Strangely, the things she sees are not ...
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... or her husband?
Now that Louise had tasted freedom, she could not bear the thought of returning to her dreary life. In the split second that she realized her husband was alive and any hope she had freedom was gone, Louise’s heart decided what must be done. He was alive, therefore she must die.
Ammons, Elizabeth. Conflicting Stories: American Women Writers at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. NY: Oxford UP, 1991.
Chopin, Kate. "The Story of an Hour". Rediscoveries: American Short Stories by Women. 1832-1916. NY: Penguin, 1994.
Fields, Veni. "Release". Ode to Friendship & Other Essays: Student Writing at VWC. Ed. Connie Bellamy, 1998.
Fryer, Judith. The Faces of Eve. New York: Oxford UP, 1976.
Jones, Anne Goodwyn. Tomorrow is Another Day: The Woman Write in the South. 1859-1936. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1981.
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