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I have always held the belief that the institution of marriage is sacred, and the union between a man and a woman should take place only where the bond of love is the unifying element. This is a concept held by many individuals, but more often than not it is not usually the case. People enter into a marriage for different reasons. In “The Story of an Hour”, Kate Chopin shows that love was never the final straw for the union between Mr. Mallard and Louise.
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In this epic short story, Chopin tackles the myriad concerns that are fundamental to feminism, more specifically the expression of a woman distinctive personality that is different from that of her husband. The first thing that comes to mind while reading “The Story of an Hour” is the measure of irony that the author uses all over the story. It sparks mixed feelings and reaction to her literal work. At first glance, I did not fathom and comprehend why the author used irony, and I strongly felt it made the story less somber than what I felt it ought to be, given the events that transpire in the story. Louise’s response after being informed of her husband’s death is not only surprising but also appears misplaced. The way the author illustrates the character’s reaction exemplifies how the newly widowed young lady truly feels about the demise of her husband. Chopin shows how Louise feels by describing the world based on her discernment after hearing of the tragic news. Mr. Mallard’s wife is said to “not hear the story as many women have heard the same” (Chopin 1). It also appears that Louise accepted the tragic information regarding the demise of her husband rather serenely and proceeded to her room to be alone. What follows once she is in her room alone vividly gives a picture of how Louise truly feels about the death.
Unexpectedly, the demise of her husband had brought Louise to a new world of chaste life. Louise is well aware that she will mourn her devoted and affectionate husband, but she also concedes that there will be many years of independence and lack of restrictions, a thing that she welcomes with open hands. She starts to plan how her future will be in this new position, where she will not be required to shoulder the burden of other individuals. It is true that she loved and, perhaps, even adored her husband. “And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not”, but love was worth nothing to her when she weigh it against her independence; Louise mumbled, “Free! Body and soul free!” (Chopin 2). Her sister pleads Louise to let her in the room, fearing that the intense grief will make her sick. Mrs. Mallard had a heart illness, and her sister feared that the tragic passing of her husband might aggravate the situation. Ironically, while in her room, she sinks into a cozy chair and gazes out of the window and begins to imagine the happiness in the future. I am sincerely surprised that she is not upset and not beating the fittings in her room. Instead, Louise looks through the window at the precursor of spring, an indication of what the new life represents.
Mrs. Mallard is very responsive and totally understands her world. She knows losing her husband has collapsed one of the greatest sources of family ties. There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself (Chopin 2). But the opportunity to go past the blind persistence of the burden of personal and family relationships appears more rewarding to her. This would not be hard to fathom bearing in mind that in the 19th century women were not only socially but legally bound to their husbands’ status and power. After the death of their husbands, windows were not under any obligation to bear the task of looking for a husband. They also acquired more legal recognition since they represented their dead husbands and, consequently, had more control over the affairs affecting their lives. Louise’s expression of free body and soul clearly illustrates this historical context.
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Demise of the husband brings joy, happiness and prospect of future achievement to Mrs. Mallard. One starts to wonder why she had to endure the bondage of relationship for the years they have been married, yet she had a chance to divorce Mallard. It is evident that Mrs. Mallard died after discovering she had not lost her husband in the accident. This passage clearly depicts the thoughts taking place in her mind: “….… There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully ………… She was beginning to recognize this thing that…., was approaching to possess her ……. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" (Chopin 2). She is psychologically preparing for this new position where she will have more freedom devoid of family and relationship ties. In reality, while her sister Josephine is engulfed by worry that she might get ill due to grief, she is wandering in the fantasy of the beginning of a new life. According to the author, “she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (Chopin 3). It is here that I understand that even though Mallard may have loved his wife, he may have held her back in ways women and men can sometimes do. The notion of being tied to another individual, regardless of how great or dreadful he is, keeps one from being oneself.
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