Analysis of the Theme of Rebellion in the Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin tells the story of Louise Mallard, a woman who has a heart condition that makes sudden, shocking news life-threatening, and her hidden desires regarding freedom. When her husband is believed to die in an accident, Mrs. Mallard’s sister and a friend of her husband’s must break the news to her gently while remaining mindful of her condition. After hearing the news of her husband’s death, Mrs. Mallard locks herself in her bedroom where the initial grief and distress from her husband’s death and her previously stifled marriage immediately begins to give way to a new passion for freedom and independence. Upon her decision to exit the room and display her fresh attitude, she walks down the stairs triumphed and thrilled by the thought of freedom. Soon after Mrs. Mallard exits her bedroom, her husband, Brently Mallard, returns home unharmed and unaware of the accident. Following her unscathed husband’s entrance, Mrs. Mallard suddenly dies of a heart attack due to her critical heart condition. The death of Mrs. Mallard is both literal and symbolic — within one hour, her dying lust for freedom has been accomplished and abolished. Of the several themes exhibited throughout “The Story of an Hour,” rebellion is the most prominent. Chopin’s story demonstrates the theme of rebellion because it indirectly confronts the lack of freedom regarding women, specifically those who are married, through the rebellious actions of Louise Mallard.
Louise Mallard continuously demonstrates rebellion throughout “The Story of an Hour” and reflects Chopin’s personal rejections of the postures of femininity. In the nineteenth century, women were often viewed as inferior, incapable, and dependent upon men. Regardless of how emotionally frustrated and betrayed she feels within her marriage, Mrs. Mallard conforms to the nineteenth century standards that are typical of that time period in which the story was written by offering natural servitude to her husband and tolerating marital restrictions that are imposed upon her. After hearing of her husband’s tragic death, Mrs. Mallard reacts in a way that is opposite of what might be considered plausible. Mrs. Mallard experiences a rush of excited emotions almost immediately after hearing of her husband’s death because she realizes the significant amount of upcoming freedom she would have. She appears to be extremely thrilled about her husband’s death because she constantly feels restrained and prohibited from life due to her marriage. She cries tears of relief as opposed to tears of grief because she is finally able to let go of being forced into femininity. Mrs. Mallard obliquely rebels through her reactions in the story because they reveal a significant dynamic emotional shift that indirectly conveys an overwhelming longing for more freedom and less marital restrictions for women: ‘There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature… What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being… 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… There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory’. By proposing this absurd reaction, it is evident that Chopin’s is suggesting that marriage typically results in repression and a loss of freedom.
Mrs. Mallard’s emotional shift signifies rebellion because the emotions she experiences within “The Story of an Hour” are not those of a woman who was grieving the death of a loved one but are instead joyous emotions associated with a freedom that was surrendered when she chose to marry. Although Brently Mallard’s return at the end of the story disproves the reality of his death, Mrs. Mallard continues to prove her rebellious self-assertiveness and emotional shift by dying when the short-lived freedom is instantly ripped from her newly independent hands. The death of Mrs. Mallard’s husband was the only thing that could set her free and she was overcome with disappointment as that freedom was immediately disposed of when her husband arrived home: “It was Brently Mallard who entered… He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry; at Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife… When the doctors came, they said she had died of heart disease of the joy that kills”. Though the doctors assumed that she died of joy and relief after her husband’s return, she really died due to disappointment of no longer having the freedom that she previously encountered and briefly loved. Throughout “The Story of an Hour,” Louise Mallard continuously exhibits rebellious actions by reacting in ways that are opposite of what is anticipated due to her excitement regarding freedom and independence.
“The Story of an Hour” expresses the prominent theme of rebellion through the actions of Louise Mallard. When Mrs. Mallard hears from Josephine and Richards of Brently Mallard’s death, she initially experiences an internal conflict because she is stuck between deep sorrow and relief as she is unable to accept the significance of the situation by reacting emotionally violent with apparent grief. Alone, however, she begins to recognize a freedom and independence that will soon enliven and excite her. In the story, independence is considered an impermissible pleasure that can be considered only secretly. When Brently Mallard returns, he unintentionally seizes Mrs. Mallard’s independence away from her, making it unattainable once again. The prohibited joy Mrs. Mallard learned to enjoy vanishes just as quickly as it appeared, but the glimpse of it ends up being sufficient enough to kill her instantly. The entirety of “The Story of an Hour” is solely based on the rebellious actions of Louise Mallard regarding the relationship between marriage and freedom.
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“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin tells the story of Louise Mallard, a woman who has a heart condition that makes sudden, shocking news life-threatening, and her hidden […]