The Story of an Hour
Back in the 1890s, women were often mistreated and lived restricted lives that lacked opportunity. They were not allowed to make their own choices and were criticized if they were divorced. Men were the head of everything and therefore, women did all the hard work in the house and had no opportunities to make their own living or pursue their dreams. According to Berkove, whoever marries, or even loves, gives up large areas of freedom. The only escape out of an unhappy marriage was death, but even the death of her husband prevented Louise from happily living life.
Louise Mallard had heart trouble and after being carefully informed that her husband had died in an accident, she was overwhelmed not because she was sad, but because she would now be free from his tyranny. According to Kimbel, Louise welcomes the freedom and independence of the years before her in which She would live for herself.She fantasized about how her life was going to be now because she would have no restrictions to live upon only those of her own. Later she discovers that her husband is alive, and she dies of a heart attack. The doctors said she died of the joy that kills because they thought she got too excited to seeing her husband alive again. In reality she died of sadness and shock because seeing her husband alive again shattered all her fantasies. In just that hour that she received the news about her husband, she was reminded of the freedom she once had and got to live a great life.
The first irony detected in the story was Louises reaction to hearing the news of her deceased husband. After hearing the news Louise goes to her room and sits in a chair described as a comfortable roomy chair (pg.189) and relaxes her body symbolizing comfort and relief. Looking out the window she notices new spring life symbolizing her being reborn. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. The notes of a distant song which someone was singing reached her faintly, and the sparrows were twittering in the eaves.(pg.189) These are all beautiful images that will now symbolize her new life. She whispered free, free, free!(pg.189) she felt she was finally free from her husband. One can infer that her relationship with her husband is so oppressive and limiting that even death is considered an escape. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that hand never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. She would cry again at his funeral because she would be reminded that he was really dead. He would look at her with kindness, a way that he had once looked at her, but rarely showed an actual emotion.
Marriages were not always about being devoted to ones spouse. This is seen when Louise thinks There would be no powerful will bending her in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have the right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.(pg.189) As if women did not have their own personal freedom. Louise questions her feelings And yet she loved him---sometimes. Often she did not, (pg189) According to Berkove, the story was written at a time when love was not a crucial part of marriage, but even married people who sincerely love each other have occasional disagreements and may not feel much love for the other at particular times. Louise might have had a bit of love for him, and it was only human to love, but the way she was treated made her not love him as much. In the days to come, she begins to think about how her life will change now. She would no longer have to share them with her husband. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own.(pg190) meaning she will not have to listen to him, but to herself. She dreaded the thought of living a long life with her unhappy marriage, but now with this new life that she owns she wants to live a long life. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.(pg.190) As she got up to open the door she walked with pride as the story says like a goddess of victory She is described as if she has won something grand; and in her mind she has won her dignity, freedom, and her self-worth. The second irony is when she realizes that her husband is not dead, because her sister and brother in law thought she would be happy, but instead she dies of shock from her husband still being alive.
Berkove, Lawrence I. Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopins The Story of an Hour. American Literary Realism 32, no.2:152-58. (Winter 2000) The Gale Group, 1989.
Kimbel, Ellen. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 78. American Short-Story Writers, 1880-1910. Pennsylvania State University, Ogontz Campus. The Gale Group, 1989,pp. 90-110.