A Rebirth and a Death in Kate Chopin?s ?The Story of an Hour?

A Rebirth and a Death in Kate Chopin?s ?The Story of an Hour?

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Kernel’s and Satellites
Kate Chopin’s story, “The Story of an Hour” is an ironic short story of a wife in the late 1800’s. The story is only a few pages long and in doing so Chopin writes a story filled with kernel’s (events that have important causal chronological coherence) with very few satellite’s (events not logically essential to the narrative action). There were no satellites that I could find while reading the text; I found every word written essential to the narrative, the progression and the conclusion of the story.

Freytag’s Pyramid and Function’s
Upon examining Freytag’s pyramid, I can see that the narrative does follow this diagrammatic representation of the story structure. From the inciting moment (Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble, and Mr. Mallards “death”) to the climax (Mrs. Mallards becoming of a free independent person) to the catastrophe (Mrs. Mallard’s death) we can follow Freytag’s design. The most interesting element to the story, following Freytag’s pyramid, is the reversal; Chopin surprises us in Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to her husband’s death. The reversal is Mrs. Mallard’s joyful acceptance of his death, her realization of freedom; the narrative twists the story to the exact opposite of what the reader was expecting. The reversal of the readers expectation is a much more effective way for Chopin to express her message. The element in the reversal also has the role of a function (an act defined by its significance for the course of action in which it appears). A death would usually be thought of as a tragedy, but once we start to gain insight on Mrs. Mallard’s character we can see why she responds with the opposite reaction. Another function within the story is the “joy that kills” it makes sense in this story, but in most you would see an immense joy at Mr. Mallard’s return, these circumstances would not often see a wife dying from, what I assume is, a miserable shock.

Acts and Happenings
Once examining the story I found an interesting insight on Mrs. Mallard in terms of acts and happenings; the happenings (a change of state not brought about by an agent and manifested in the discourse in the act of happen) are events out of Mrs. Mallards control, and the acts (a change of state brought about by an agent) are Mrs. Mallards emotional realizations and her change of outlook on life and death rather than physical actions: Mr.

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Mallard’s death is a “happening” for Mrs. Mallard; her rebirth from a husband’s possession to an independent free woman is a strong “act” from Mrs. Mallard; Mr. Mallards life and return is another happening that Mrs. Mallard can’t control; but the most interesting is Mrs. Mallards death, the reader can’t be sure if it is an act or a happening or perhaps a mixture of the two. Once Mrs. Mallard has tasted her freedom, and has undergone her rebirth, the loss of it would be incredibly unbearable, would she have chosen to die under those circumstances.
     
Mrs. Mallard’s Heart Trouble
The first thing we learn about Mrs. Mallard is that she has heart trouble, and other people see her as a fragile woman. Chopin waits until further into the story to reveal that Mrs. Mallard is young with a calm face; it isn’t difficult to assume that the heart trouble could be a convenient way for male doctors to describe perfectly normal reactions and emotions. There are many accounts, from those times, in which women were considered by men, and by doctors to be emotionally weak; there were very few female doctors and the fact that male doctors weren’t as educated or open to the idea that women’s differences from men weren’t weaknesses but just differences. A good example of this is the story “The Yellow Wallpaper” which will be presented on March 16th; a woman’s legitimate illness can be brushed off and ignored due to the fact that she is a woman and her “weakness” can be overcome by rest; in this case Mrs. Mallards concerns or perhaps physical reactions to her suppression of self. Certain emotions or emotional states could easily be taken for physical conditions because society at the time didn’t want to see legitimate emotional outcry from women in their “proper” stations.

Imprisonment
There are many references to Mrs. Mallard being imprisoned in her station and in her life, which is probably her marriage alone.
“There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair (261).” The fact that the chair faces a window (and an open window especially) shows a longing to be free; it doesn’t mean that she isn’t allowed outdoors, but it symbolizes her feelings of being trapped. The chair is roomy and comfortable, this implies that she spends a lot of time at this window, an uncomfortable chair would not be practical or enjoyable.
“When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. (262).” Mrs. Mallard’s repetition of the word “free”, following this quote, certainly suggests imprisonment, what I find interesting is the narrator’s use of language; words relating to abandon are used throughout the narrative and the whispered word escapes her lips.

Chopin a Feminist?
Although Chopin refused the title of feminist, she was probably refusing the definition of feminism of her time; also the title could be seen as another label to fit people into regardless of their individual views. It is clear to me that weather Chopin would agree or not there are very strong feminist views throughout the text. The most interesting thing to note about Chopin’s feminist expressions is their similarity to a more modern perspective of feminism: the domination/submission model. Feminism has been undergoing a change from conflict between men and women to domination and submission on a whole. The domination/submission model can relate to eco feminism (the idea that the domination of Man, not men, over nature and the domination of women are intimately connected and mutually reinforcing), racism, ageism, and “ism” all the way down to sexism. The fact that Mrs. Mallard feels guilty for her reaction and only talks well of her husband shows that she doesn’t blame her husband; The, obviously, female narrator, and Mrs. Mallard herself are never judging men; they are just unhappy in the societal situation in which they find themselves. This story is a look at the situations in which people will thrive and in which they will suffer; this story is not an accusation towards men it is a critique on Man.

Quotes reinforcing the domination/submission model
“But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely (Chopin 262).”
“There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature (262).”

A Rose by any Other Name?
It was very normal and average for a wife to assume her husband’s name, and it still is; there is nothing wrong in doing so, but Chopin was definitely saying something with the titles she imposed on Mrs. Mallard throughout the story. Originally she is referred to as Mrs. Mallard, immediately we see that in her marriage she is defined by her husband. Mrs. Mallard is the property of Mr. Mallard, it cannot be ignored that a certain part of the self is lost. She is also referred to as “she” but we don’t learn of her first name until she has been reborn and only after the moment of her realization of freedom do we learn her name is Louise. At the moment of her death she becomes the wife.
“He [Mr. Mallard] stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry: at Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife (263).”
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