Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" and Marriage

A brief analysis of Kate Chopin's short story and upon marriage confinements

Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” covers one hour of Mrs. Mallard’s independent life after her husband’s death. Mrs. Mallard’s first reaction to the death of her husband, Simon, is quite different than other people learning about their loved one’s unexpected death since she is not shocked or unable to accept the reality. Instead, the main character’s reaction seems to be exaggerated in the presence of her sister and Richard as she instantly and speciously starts crying in her sister’s arms. Having read about Simon’s sudden death in an accident in the newspaper, the protagonist is expected to be highly sorry when she goes to her room alone.

Nonetheless, she begins to see things from an optimistic perspective and becomes more hopeful for the future. The reason why she feels this way is because the main character’s marriage confines her. Thus, she describes things positively when Simon dies. For instance, Mrs. Mallard mentions an open window and a comfortable armchair. These descriptions and her way of seeing are symbolic of her new and independent life. She is so confined that she is not aware of even the season until Simon’s death. Representing the new start, the spring also emphasizes the turning point of her confined life. Stressed by the use of repetition, the word “free” is significant for the protagonist as she no longer feels confined because of her marriage.

Mrs. Mallard, for a brief moment, experiences an illumination that makes her realize that she can live a life just for herself and undergoes a sudden moment of insight, an epiphany. The story does not reveal much about Simon but it can be understood that he is kind and a loving husband. Moreover, the main character mentions that she does not actually hate her husband. However, the main purpose of the story is not about whether Mrs. Mallard loves her husband or whether Mr. Mallard is a kind person. The story is about the limitations of a marriage that put obstacles on the protagonist until her husband’s death. Feeling triumphant, she symbolically gains her freedom with the revelation of her name, Louise, and likens herself to the goddess of victory.

As Louise is aware of her independence, she prays for a long life. Ironically, she dies because of a heart attack. However, from a different perspective, the protagonist becomes totally free in body and soul after she dies. Although the doctor says that the reason for her death is the joy she feels, the reader knows that Mrs. Mallard is presented as a woman with a weak heart in the beginning. Thus, it can be said that this is not an unexpected ending.