ENGL220 Assignment 1 MINJI KIM
Setting in the late nineteenth century, Kate Chopins The Story of an Hour illustrates a womans emotional changes after she heard of her husbands death. Although it is written long before and it is just a short portrayal of an emotional repression of a woman of that time, The Story of an Hour still is a thought-provoking story even for the contemporary readers.
Louise, who has heart problem, is carefully told that her husband, Brently, is killed in a railroad accident. She goes upstairs to her room sobbing. Looking outside the open window, she feels the spring air, and suddenly feels the unexpected joy. She soon recognises what brings her this joy is the newfound freedom. She spreads her arms out to the world, and repeats whispering, free, free, free! When her sister Josephine comes up to see if she is all right, she tells her to leave her alone as she is fine. She draws the picture of the new independent life of her own. Then she walks out of her room and goes downstairs with her sister. At last, it reveals that Brently is never dead, because he has not been involved in the train disaster. Seeing her husband, Louise dies of the joy that kills.
The theme of the story is the forbidden freedom of a married woman. Louise finds the monstrous joy after her husbands death, because she thinks she could finally escape the oppression and be free on her own. Even though she feels sad about the fact that she has lost her husband, she cannot conceal her feeling thrills about her new life as an independent woman. Her death at the end of the story is really unexpected, and Chopin does not give any detailed description of the reason why she is dead so suddenly. However, it may be because her freedom has been taken away from her again. In Deictic Elements in Kate Chopins The Story of an Hour A Cognitive Poetics/Stylistic Perspective, Sami Breem mentions that She dies because she has lost her freedom and beautiful dreams.
In fact, the status of a woman in modern society is not like that of the time this story is based on. Today, the marriage does not mean any repression or mens complete control over women. However, in a more general view, this story still gives the readers something to think on, because it is basically about oppressed freedom of a human being. There are so many people who are deprived of their own independence, no matter if they are aware of it or not. People in modern society live their lives in any kind of restrictions, trying to be socially appropriate or to be socially acceptable or to be socially respectable. Once someone realises that there is real freedom out there, outside the open window, he may feel great excitement about the new, lively future, but that joy is killing. In The Story of an Hour, the way Louise could be free is to completely deny her life. Just like The Story of an Hour, in which Louise ends up dying after the tremendous joy of freedom, the strong fascination for the freedom will kill the person who longs for freedom but cannot escape the present life. On the other way, if someone is to be free from restrictions, the only way is to kill the person, or social system, that has the control on him. In both ways, ironically, freedom is fatal.
The Story of an Hour is not only a sad story about a woman who dreams of sweet future of her independent life, but a ironic tragedy of all the people who do not live with perfect freedom not to kill nor to be killed.