The Life Mrs. Mallard Could Never Have
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is a short story based on the emotionally damaged character Mrs. Mallard. The whole story is emotional roller coaster ride where the audience journeys into the dark mind of Mrs. Mallard through the series of reflections she reveals to us about the thoughts of her feelings towards her husband’s death. In the last hour of Mrs. Mallard’s life the audience captures a glimpse of her true feelings about her husband’s death through symbolism, irony, and theme.
The story opens up with the revelation of Mr. Mallard’s death, but with Mrs. Mallard in a very different emotional state than expected; she seems relieved. For example, Mrs. Mallard sits comfortably back in her chair looking out the window with a disturbing calm state. The window is a symbol of the freedom that Mrs. Mallard now can achieve through tragic death of Mr. Mallard. Also, there is a perplexing idea that creeps up Mrs. Mallard’s mind. She is like a free bird being let go to flight. The window is the representation of the oppression of women back in the late nineteenth century. Chopin purposely gives Mrs. Mallard the role of an emotionally drained woman whose last chance at freedom is through the death of her husband. This is shown in the scene where Mrs. Mallard seems to float from the stairs like a victorious goddess. This is a suggestion that she won the battle within the marriage, in that she stuck through it without breaking down, and now it is over and she may retire into the life she wishes for herself. The author shows that Mrs. Mallard feels helplessly oppressed by her role as a woman in the shadow of her husband. In result, her silence consumes her soul to enslavement to the world of man.
Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition is a symbol of the battle scar she had to endure in her marriage. The audience is pulled into sympathy for the main character in that she is emotionally bruised by the loss of freedom in her life. Mrs. Mallard is seen to be fragile and sick from the start of the story, when her sister tries to shield her from the news. However, the news seems to have been the cure for her soul.
Chopin plays with the idea of irony within the story by bringing out the darkness behind the protagonist Mrs. Mallard. For example, at the story’s climax, she whispers, “Free! Body and Soul free!” (300)This sentence was written to suggest the exhilaration that sweeps up Mrs. Mallard’s whole being with the thought of finally being her own person. This celebration is startling to the audience when they learn wife happiness lies under the death of her husband. The story suggests a dramatic irony that freedom can only bought by the expense of another life.
“Assure him of its truth by a second telegram (299). The author purposely outlines this sentence to make the audience feel there is an assurance of her husband’s death, but in fact he is alive. As Louise comes out, she carries herself like the “Goddess of Victory”, and descends the stairs with her sister. As the two moves to the bottom of the stairs, the door swings open to reveal Brantley Mallard, Louise’s supposedly dead husband. Within minutes of learning the news that her husband is alive, Mrs. Mallard has a heart attack and dies. This dramatic scene was clever way of representing the feeling of betrayal by the supernatural, that her husband gets to live and she dies in an hour when she felt she was free. In a cruel way Mrs. Mallard’s freedom is taken away, and leaving her with the last happiness she felt before she learned her husband was alive.
The main theme of the story is oppressiveness of marriage. Chopin suggests that marriage
is a burden one takes on when a couple falls in love and feels an obligation to that person. A marriage what is seen to be holy matrimony is noted in the story as bless less promise of one another through the characters of Mrs. Mallard and Mr. Mallard. Through eyes of the author, marriage is perceived as a curse one has to live with especially if you are a woman. In general marriage is what stifled Mrs. Mallard by losing her own independence as a human being.
Furthermore, when Mrs. Mallard got married she traded her freedom for an apron, where now
she is the object for her husband and the loss of her individuality.
“But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, and the color that filled the air”(300) Chopin states that for the first time Mrs. Mallard can enjoy the fruits of her labor, she can smell the scents around her and the colors. This scene resembles imagery similar to a prisoner’s first breath out of jail, resembling the same feeling Mrs. Mallard has of being independent. She can now enjoy the nature around her, and the opportunities that the world offers her. Description of the sky could be the flight of her happiness, and the irony would be the downfall of learning the truth about her husband’s death. In the short story, the nature could be the mockery of human emotion.Mrs. Mallard feels comfort by nature, but in fact it is a moorage of a dream she can never grasp. Nature is a universal symbol of nurture and motherly love. Here it takes a whole new meaning, where nature is seen to be a disguise of false hope.