Gender & Marriage in Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”

While attaining freedom for women in the nineteenth century was highly impractical, females were not contented with the injustices of a society overpowered by men. Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour was published when America experienced rapid technological advancement changes to economic recession. The author lived in a society that viewed women as their husbands’ property and looked down upon women’s freedom. She narrates the story of a woman’s short-lived liberation from the limiting aspects of gender bias and marriage roles. In her narrative, the author’s view represents marriage’s repressive role in women’s lives. Chopin uses various literary elements, catastrophe, and anagnorisis to display and highlight women’s struggle with freedom in modern society.

Kate’s story encompasses a wide array of themes, the key ones among them being women’s suffrage and marriage. In her narrative, Chopin tells the misery and suffering of Louise Mallard from a heart problem. Due to her illness, the news of Brently’s death was delivered to Mallard with much care and caution. Louise was forced to endure the devastating news, and her reaction to the information is depicted as unusual (par. 3). According to the Story of an Hour, it is evident that Mallard suffers social oppression where she is shown as feeble and emotional in the first line (Par 1). Mallard’s expression of joy and freedom suggests that she has been repressed during their marriage. Chopin also uses a window’s imagery and the physical elements outside to imply freedom for Mrs. Mallard. She compares the comfy armchair in her room with the window to show the wife’s sense of freedom and comfort with the death of Brently. She also presents the casement as an opening to boundless opportunities for Mallard.

Further, the short story demonstrates a vital distinction between the meaning of liberty for men and women in marriage. Liberation is enshrined in becoming a man in America with little effort in extending it to women. Mallard’s life was designed by society’s belief of how a woman should behave and carry herself. The event of her husband’s death indicates how freedom is essential to a woman’s life in marriage. As seen in the end, it is the actual thought of losing her freedom after her husband’s return that ends Mallard’s life. Throughout history, marriage was used as a social control tool to enforce a standard of behavior in women and give men social and political power. Chopin portrays the exploitive and suppressive nature of marriage systems. While Mallard outrightly admits that she loved the husband, her imagination and attention were focused on a free future without Brently. (par. 10). The narrative presents a marriage built on the foundations of society’s anticipations, necessitating a view of women as essential and adept spouses in marriage.

Additionally, a husband is not the only crucial aspect of a happy marriage. Women are entitled to as much freedom as men, which marriage does not necessarily guarantee. While Chopin has effortfully portrayed men as the source of needless suffering to women, she also depicts Mallard as an upper-class person with a relatively good life. For example, Mallard had been receiving care in her house in an open square when she received bad news (Yazgı 151). The author, therefore, tries to awaken the aspect of feminism in a male-dominated society and wants to see women thriving and fulfilled. She does this by showing how Mallard receives solitude and vulnerability with widowhood to campaign for women’s independence in the community. While Chopin foresees a society of bold and boundless women it is imperative that both men and women need to walk together to make society fairer (Yazgi, 149). Chopin nonetheless uses female characters to depict a womanly revolution against the patriarchy.

Interestingly, the author employs anagnorisis to display the unexplorable nature of the lead character, Mallard. At the beginning of the story, Mallard is just a woman who is at the point of receiving depressing news at the worst moment of her life. At first, Louise Mallard exhibits sorrow and grief as any widowed woman would, “weeping sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” (Chopin par. 3). Later in the narrative, however, this woman seems collected and critical of the news. A wave of freedom ensues as Mallard spends time contemplating her past married life. The news of her husband’s death gradually results in great joy and the introduction of the most precious gift of freedom. Ultimately, Mallard grieves no more and drinks in a “very elixir of life” (Chopin par. 16). Thus, the author creatively and subtly illuminates the true nature of a woman subjected to societal bondage in silence.

After reading and observing the mentioned subjects in the ‘Story of an Hour,’ it is within reason to conclude that Chopin has convincingly depicted gender situations in marriage. The story is a pointer to females’ thoughts and feelings and represents what ladies have to endure in modern society. The use of the telegraph is a representation of a world where information moves too rapidly. In reference to the speed at which the events in the story happened, it is clear that the report suggests the importance of addressing women’s issues in modern society.

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.Virginia Commonwealth University, Web.

Yazgı, Cihan. “Tragic Elements and Discourse-Time in ‘The Story of an Hour.’” Explicator, vol. 78, no. 3/4, 2020, pp. 147–152.

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