The Story Of An Hour
Concept of Change Through Nature in the Stories of Kate Chopin
Change has always been a revolutionary concept in our world, where the transformation of a familiar force into something entirely foreign is a perplexing idea. Kate Chopin evokes this feeling of mysticality through her pieces, “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm,” by introducing her readers to the concept of change through nature. The female protagonists of these works are embodied by the transformations in weather, where one feels empowered at the sight of a flourishing landscape and another shows dominance when approached by thundering storms. A familiar, supernatural force comes into being as this theme of femininity ties in with the rapid changes of nature. Chopin evokes the character of Mother Nature within her female figures through personification, humanizing the weather by relating its versatility with a dominance that stems from femininity. Through the actions of Mrs. Mallard and Calixta, the audience is able to understand the overall empowerment given to women; they embody a figure greater in power than any human force, swaying the Earth to and fro with powers of growth and prosperity.
The embodiment of Mother Nature is best displayed by the flourishing of the world around the human race. As flowers bloom petal by petal and large oaks grow from tiny saplings, the feminine figure is surrounded and empowered by spring — the season of renewal and rebirth. In “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard is similarly invigorated by the imagery of springtime outside of her window. After she hears the news regarding the death of her husband, she rushes upstairs and instantly looks to the “open square before her house” (Chopin 556) for solace. Instead of looking for words of encouragement from her sister, Josephine, she slinks upstairs to be consoled by the image outside her “open window” (556). Just as Mother Nature is comforted by the sight of blooming flora, Mrs. Mallard holds the same quality, using the outside world to soothe her grief and initial shock of the news. The constant repetition of the word ‘open’ signifies this need for a connection with the wilderness, instead of being restricted inside. Mrs. Mallard finds hope within the limitless nature of the outside world, looking beyond her window to the skies, for an answer to her husband’s sudden death. As she is stuck within her own thoughts, the audience is greeted with the image of the protagonist in a “comfortable, roomy armchair” (556). The sight of the armchair displays a form of relaxation to Mrs. Mallard, but the word choice Chopin uses offers another meaning. Using the term ‘roomy’ implies that Mrs. Mallard is a petite woman compared to the oversized chair, which consumes her in size when she sits down. As the chair overpowers her, forcing her to feel inhabited “by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul” (556), she becomes clouded in worry. This displays Mrs. Mallard’s connection with the figure of Mother Nature, as her veiled emotions show restriction to the confining features of the piece of furniture; she feels weight as she is trapped inside the walls of her own home, as well as the walls of her broken marriage. Mrs. Mallard hopes to seek natural beauty rather than idly sit within the barriers of her room, just as Mother Nature does as she spreads her pure splendor throughout the world.
Mrs. Mallard begins her period of empowerment by showing mercy and sympathy for her deceased husband, describing the scene as a “storm of grief [that] had spent itself” (556). Chopin’s usage of the word ‘storm’ stands out, as it is a contrasting concept from the usual serenity of Mother Nature. Whereas the supernatural figure is typically shown to be a merciful, maternal character, the topic of natural disasters comes to mind with the mention of storms. Relating back to Mrs. Mallard, the death of her husband triggers a calamity inside of the female protagonist, bringing forth ideas contrasting with common normalities of femininity. Instead of remaining in despair about the death, she is struck by sudden realizations of freedom and escape. The vengeful form of Mother Nature resonates inside Mrs. Mallard, halting her stage of grief and instead forcing her to move onto a period of independence and empowerment. As Mrs. Mallard looks outside her window, embracing the open nature, she gradually realizes the detailings of the no-longer veiled world. She notices the “tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life [and] the delicious breath of rain in the air” (556), finding hints of life within the nature surrounding her. Just as Mother Nature allows Mrs. Mallard to discover a newfound appreciation for the vitality of the outside world, she also forces the character to seek new life inside her own self. Through the birth and growth of the nature outside, she gives birth to her own freedom from the death of her husband. The figure of Mother Nature is essentially capable of implanting the beauty of spring within her, making the presence of a man entirely trivial. When the main character notices “patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window” (556), the world of freedom opens up for her to venture out into. Whereas her husband symbolized the white piles of clouds, guarding her innocence and purity inside the safe haven of her home, Chopin’s choice of the color blue emphasizes open spaces, such as the sky and the sea. The figure of Mother Nature comes truly alive within Mrs. Mallard, where she is finally able to view the sights from her open window and discover a life of independence and empowerment without any man stopping her.
Unlike the situation of empowerment that occurs with Mrs. Mallard, “The Storm” begins with a feeling of submission from the male character of Bobinôt. The piece begins with a description of the setting, where “the leaves were so still that even Bibi thought it was going to rain… certain sombre clouds were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar” (557). Chopin’s mention of the ‘west’ proves to be essential, for the sun sets in the west; a sense of darkness and mystique is detected with the motion of the world’s natural light source gradually dimming. While the scattered patches of clouds present a foreshadowing of Mrs. Mallard’s newfound freedom in “The Story of an Hour,” the ominous, murky scenery in “The Storm” depicts a falling of masculinity for Calixta’s husband. Bobinôt initially shows hints of dominance by reassuring his son about Calixta’s safety, yet he veils his worry as he “[goes] across the counter [to purchase] a can of shrimps, of which Calixta was very fond… then [returning] to his perch on the keg and [sitting] stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst” (558). He carries traits of femininity as he purchases the item with his wife in mind, showing loyalty and dependence as he sits with his son through a raging calamity. Chopin’s choice of using the word ‘stolidly’ emphasizes Bobinôt’s attempt to hide the worry for his wife’s safety behind an expressionless face, protecting the ideas of harm from his child and giving him an aura of maternity. The storm portrayed in the short story forces the female role to be handed off to Bobinôt instead of Calixta, who remains “at home, [feeling] no uneasiness for their safety” (558). As Mother Nature approaches the male within the open area of the store, he becomes more submissive and becomes clouded in worry, whereas the hidden presence of the downpour allows Calixta to stay “occupied… not [noticing] the approaching storm” (558). Mother Nature forces Bobinôt to become a man who hides behind his exterior, taking away from the typical characteristics of being a masculine figure; instead, these qualities are given to Calixta, where she is empowered by the sight of stormy weather.
Just as the inner storm of independence rises in Mrs. Mallard, the literal storm mentioned in Calixta’s household allows her to achieve a dominance within her marital relationship. Whereas Mrs. Mallard is outwardly triggered by the serene form of Mother Nature outside her open window, Calixta appears to find strength by seeing the terror-filled sights of the harsh storm. Although she does not notice the harshness of the gusts against her home at first, she finds it “[beginning] to grow dark, and suddenly realizing the situation she got up hurriedly and went about closing windows and doors” (558). The fierce presence of Mother Nature comes in unexpectedly into Calixta’s life, forcing her to shut every open point of access. Chopin’s description of the protagonist’s rushed attitude depicts her overall wariness and hesitance of dropping her maternal characteristics. Especially since Bobinôt and Bibi are not present, Calixta heightens her senses by blocking out Mother Nature and her aura of independence by “[rolling] up a piece of bagging… [and thrusting] it beneath the crack” (558) with the help of Alcée. When Chopin calls attention to rooms of the household, a foreshadowing is shown through the “door [standing] open… the room with its white, monumental bed, its closed shutters, [looking] dim and mysterious” (558). The color white is a shade of innocence and purity, yet the shadows and darkness clouding over the bed show that Mother Nature’s brutality has already entered Calixta’s home; her efforts to blockade the figure have proven unsuccessful. The moment she shares with Alcée depicts the moment she falls under Mother Nature’s temptations and lets go of the submission over her marriage. The affair between the two shows a moment of empowerment for Calixta, where she lets go of her marital affairs and shares an intimate moment with a man of her choosing. Although the act can be identified as sinful, the identity of Mother Nature’s power is inevitable within Calixta, “her firm, elastic flesh… like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world” (559-560). Even through the raging storm, Calixta is replenished by the beauty of nature through the supernatural figure, just as Mrs. Mallard is while looking out her window.
Although the presence of females was undermined in years past, Chopin is able to depict the empowerment of her female characters through the figure of Mother Nature. Mrs. Mallard is evolved from a grieving woman into one filled with thoughts of freedom, while Calixta begins her transformation from a submissive woman under an oath of marriage to one that shows dominance as she partakes in an affair with a different man. Chopin’s short stories do not necessarily depict the moral good of her female characters, however, as both scenarios involve a lack of loyalty and trust within each marriage; Mrs. Mallard embraces the joy of her newfound independence through the death of her husband, while Calixta forgets about her duties as a maternal figure and partakes in an affair. From this note, can it be said that Mother Nature in Chopin’s pieces does not have the qualities of greater good in mind when influencing these characters? The supernatural figure appears to initially mock men, in order to place women on a pedestal, which possibly depicts Chopin’s personal opinions on male superiority. The stories written by this feminism-seeking author could denote qualities of ridicule and scorn, showing readers that not only were females excelling in writing, but they could compose literature filled to the brim with notes of male-taunting parody.
The Battle of the Press as Told in the Story of the Life of Richard Carlile
During the 19th century, the role of women and men were sharply defined as a line that may never be crossed. Men were dictated to work while their wives were attending their domestic duties. Likewise, women were forced to adhere to the standards placed on them such as preparing themselves for marriage. The ideology of this line was to represent the contrast between the two genders, both in their natural characteristics and their political power. Kate Chopin, the author of many feminist works of literature, encompasses this idea of patriarchy and systematic oppression in her short story, “The Story of an Hour.” She focuses on the life of Mrs. Mallard, a woman struggling with a heart problem and the death of her husband. This untimely death came with the unfolding emotional state of a woman oppressed by her marriage for years. It is a literary piece that reinforces the unending gender roles and stereotypes that are placed on women. Kate Chopin proves this in, “The Story of an Hour”, by focusing on the power differences in the 19th century, and how the main protagonist struggles with her own societal expectations and oppression.
Foremost, the story takes place in the 19th century which was a time that greatly expressed the power differences between men and women. Mrs. Mallard, who is the main protagonist in the story, is an example of the consequences of following the patriarchal laws and furthering these power differences. From the beginning of the novel, it was indicated that Mrs. Mallard had to compromise in order to please her husband. She gives up her freedoms, which was common for a woman in the 19th century, and loses her power in order to get married. These dynamics were set in order to place women in a lower priority power compared to men, and the narrator even states, “there would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself”. The power that is shown through here is the power of men to be able to work whereas women were set to be housewives; it is an implication of the stereotype that women should be domestic and submissive. It is also an illustration of Mrs. Mallard’s family and how deeply integrated her life was with these societal complications. Furthermore, Mrs. Mallard’s life was anything but extraordinary. In fact, Mrs. Mallard doesn’t seem to share the same love her husband has, furthering the idea of forced marriages. “She loved him- sometimes, often she did not.” This idea of love not only proves that Mrs. Mallard does not share the same ‘emotional’ aspects that women are stereotyped to be, but it also proves that her liberation is incomparably greater than the feeling of marriage. Marriage, in other words, was the loss of this freedom and power.
Additionally, the news of her husband’s death was an implication of how marriage during the 19th century was a battle of power. This is seen through the realization of Mrs. Mallard’s newfound freedom when she thinks,”‘free, free, free!’ The vacant state and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes”. Not only does this showcase her loss of freedom in the marriage, but it is also a representation of how Mrs. Mallard feels knowing that she still has a place in society while being free. In other words, because society would not accept a divorced woman but could accept a widow, Mrs. Mallard understands that she has gained back a portion of her freedom without sacrificing herself. Moreover, this power difference during those times created a mindset in women to accept what they already have. For instance, Mrs. Mallard even determines that she no longer had a man that will ‘bend her in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature’. This is not only a demonstration of how Mrs. Mallard and society thought of women as ‘property’, however; it also showcases that Mrs. Mallard has even accepted that society has placed women lower than men. By the same token, the readers can view the death of Mr. Mallard as a symbol of the loss of the freedom that Mrs. Mallard had gained for a short period of time. In the story, the readers expect Mrs. Mallard to grieve at the death of her husband, however; it is obviously seen that this is not the case. In fact, Kate Chopin creates an ending with an ironic twist, where Mrs. Mallard’s death was caused by the entrance of her husband-who was spectacularly alive-causing her to die “of a joy that kills”. Mrs. Mallard’s joy from her new-gained freedom along with the disappointment of seeing her husband was the cause of her death. In the same fashion, the title is a reference to Mrs. Mallard’s shortly gained freedom and happiness; an hour of having taken her power back. Mrs. Mallard was unhappy with her husband because of her inability to have her own opinion, and consequently, these ideologies are also shown through the stereotypes and gender roles that attack her.
From the first sentence of the story, it is implied that women have to act and be a certain way. These stereotypes are not only advocated by the protagonist but are also the cause of the emotional and societal complications in her life. Specifically, it is a physical complication in Mrs. Mallard’s life that reinforces her own gender stereotypes, something that she cannot control. For instance, Mrs. Mallard is described by the author as someone “afflicted with heart trouble,” and “great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” Not only does this apply to her physical heart complication, but it also applies to the idea that all women are sensitive and emotional. Furthermore, it is the people around Mrs. Mallard that reinforce these stereotypes by acting this way. It is an example of the societal influence that the people around her had established. In addition to having others around her support these gender roles, Mrs. Mallard takes these reflections to the point where she strives to fight off the feeling of joy she feels after her husband’s death. The prejudices placed on her create this self-conflict in which she “was striving to beat it back with her will as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been”. Not only does this showcase that Mrs. Mallard was a ‘product’ of her time as she fights this new feeling of freedom, however; it also ironically encourages the stereotypes set upon her as the author describes Mrs. Mallard to fit the idea that all women should be powerless. As a matter of fact, Kate Chopin uses symbolism to promote this idea of self-conflict within women and having adjusted to society’s standards. For example, Kate Chopin uses the symbolism of the chair and the open window to represent the comfortable life that she has been accustomed to. The narrator says, “there stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair.” The armchair symbolizes the security and comfort of the stereotypes she has adjusted to, whereas in comparison to the open window, it represents the freedom and power to break away from those stereotypes. Kate Chopin used the imagery such as, tops of trees that were all aquiver with new life in the open window to promote the idea of liberation. These are all examples of breakingAdditionally, Mrs. Mallard from the very beginning is inferred as ‘not like other women, which is generalizing women into how they should be and act like. The narrator states, “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance.” The importance of these examples is shown through the liberation of Mrs. Mallard following her husband’s death, where that freedom disappears at his arrival. This not only connects to the essential fact that Mrs.Mallard’s life was controlled before death, but her death itself was controlled by her husband a man. Mrs. Mallard, as a character, is a great example of the product of years of societal repression.
As can be seen, “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is a great example of the reinforcement of gender stereotypes during the 19th century. Kate Chopin portrays these stereotypes in her short story using the main protagonist and how they handle their own oppression. This main theme of the story following liberation versus patriarchy is portrayed in both an entertaining but educational way. Kate Chopin presents freedom as a treasure that should be taken care of, and how patriarchy is an important aspect of learning how society has evolved, and matured into something where equality is an option. The importance of spreading awareness on this topic is what makes this story relevant today as it applies to these modern issues. In order to prevent these gender roles and stereotypes from continuing to harm women and men, research is needed to be done to learn from our past mistakes.
Gender Lens in Story of an Hour
Looking through the Story of an Hour through a gender lens made it easier to view the story. For example, The man and the women act differently and respond to things differently throughout the passage. The man and the women have different roles in the story, the man is supposed to be the powerful, strong, and determined and the one who makes the money while the woman is supposed to stay home and make dinner and clean the house up. There is a gender stereotype in the story of how the man is supposed to treat the woman and how the woman is supposed to act or how the woman does everything at home while the man goes to work. You can see in the story of how the woman reacts to the mand dying you would expect her to be crying sad and heartbroken but she is happy and feels free that her husband has died.
The gender lens in the story has many different points towards the woman and the man. The man is supposed to have the power in the story and have the dominance over the woman. When the husband dies, the woman finally feels open and free and like a weight has been lifted off of her. “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves”. From this quote from the book you can see how the woman feels and how it is different than what society thought it would be. The woman finally feels free and feels like she has the power now since her husband has died and can’t be stereotyped by society anymore.
In Story of an Hour the man is supposed to set the rules for the woman and tell them what to do.Louis is husband is the one working and gaining all the power and money when louise can’t because of the stereotype that society has on woman.. She can’t express herself or the way she feels towards this to anyone or society because society forbids it. “Due to her unhappiness in marriage, she ends up getting a heart disease that weakens her immune system”. This explains how she feels during the marriage and how she cannot speak up or say anything to anyone because of society and the way they look at gender. Louise feels as if she can’t do anything in her marriage because of society and the way society portrays women and what they are supposed to do.
In society woman want to be able to do what they want and have freedome and not be stereotyped or have rules set by society. In the book louise wants freedome and to be out of the marriage but she can’t get that because society doesn’t approve of it so she feels un happy and sad in the marriage. Louise no matter how much she tries can’t do anything because of society and the way they treat woman. “‘free! Free! Free!” This is how louise reacts to her husband passing how. She feels free and happy that her husband has died and feels like she has beaten society.
Looking through the Story of an Hour through a gender lens made it easier to view the story. Society treats the women as if they are nothing and suppose to do nothing while the men can do anything. The man and the women have different roles in the story, the man has more power and wealth than the woman. Louise feels very unhappy with the marriage and with the way society and the man treat her. There is a gender stereotype in the story of how the man is supposed to treat the woman and how the woman is supposed to act.. You can see in the story of how the woman reacts to the man dying, you would expect her to be crying, sad and heartbroken but she is happy and feels free that her husband has died.
Analysis of the Story of an Hour
Many people think of marriage as a beautiful thing however data is showing us that nearly fifty percent of marriages end in divorce or separation.The story of an hour is set in the 1800’s when women didn’t have many rights. In the story of an hour Mrs Mallard learns that her husband has died and instead of having the expected reaction of devastation she seems to actually be relieved. When Mrs Mallard first learns of her husband’s death she cries and wants to grieve by herself but then as the story progresses she expresses that she finally feels free. Towards the end of the story Mrs Mallard’s sister Josephine shows up to her house with a look of distress and before she can explain why Mr Mallard walks through the door. Instead of being overcome with joy Mrs Mallard drops dead. Mrs Mallard suffered with an ongoing heart condition but also i believe that she died because her freedom got ripped out of her hands within a matter of seconds. This shows that this marriage was obviously toxic, and many women nowadays would have left their husband but since this story is set in the 1800’s divorce was not an option and women had little to no rights. Kate Chopin’s main idea of marriage is that it is repressive,which she shows through irony, imagery, and diction.
Chopin uses irony to array that marriage takes away your freedom. Kate Chopin states “when the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease- of joy that kills”. This proves my point because yes she died from her heart condition, but the reason her heart gave out was because of the overwhelming feeling of her freedom getting ripped away.If Mrs Mallard was happy and had freedom within her marriage then why would she be devastated to find out that her husband was alive. As I said before, a lot of modern women would have left in the position but because of the time period Mrs Mallard didn’t have that option. “The tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life”. This quote is ironic because she just found out her husband has perished, but instead of being mournful she is focused on how beautiful it is outside. Now that Mr Mallard is gone it is almost like a dark cloud has been lifted from her allowing her to appreciate even the simplest of things that she couldn’t before. In the same way that irony exposes the repressive nature of marriage, imagery allows us to actually see the repression.
Kate Chopin uses imagery to display that marriage restrains your freedom. “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been”.This quote constitutes as imagery because it helps us visualize Mrs Mallard giving into the overwhelming feeling of freedom despite the fact that her husband has died.Chopin says “This thing that was approaching to possess her,she was striving to beat it back with her will” what it is saying is the Mrs.Mallard is upset about her husband’s death,but she can’t fight back the sense of relief and freedom that she is feeling.Mrs mallard does feel an upset of course because that’s her husband however she can’t fight back the amazing feeling of finally being free.
In conclusion, “The Story of an Hour” proves that marriage is repressive through many quota of the story. Marriage can be a happy thing full of love however in certain situations like Mrs Mallards it was like signing away her freedom and her life to her husband. Marriage will never be this one specific situation but no matter how happy you are on some level marriage will always take away part of ur freedom.
The Story of an Hour: Plot Overview
The purpose of Chopin’s story is to give awareness on the lack of freedom a woman has in the world. Back in the day woman were treated differently than the woman of the 20th century. They were treated as property and had to summit to the husbands wants and needs. It was so extreme that females weren’t even allowed to have a job, own property, go on their own or even have a proper education. Everyone is created equally, and we should all be treated the same. That’s what Chopin is trying to point out in the story. She wants to elaborate on how hard it is mentally and physically for a woman to be a housewife. It is as if she is in jail and can’t get out until the “death row’ of her husband who is living life how he wants it. Even though death is an option for her freedom she is doom to have to get remarried for the sake of the country not seeing a woman being able to take care of herself. A female is viewed as weak and is sad when alone as well. Therefore, woman is labeled as too emotional because that is all they know. A good example of who freedom was stripped from the woman were the fact that they are extremely happy if the husband has passed away. As in short story, Mrs. Mallard locked herself in the bedroom after the horrible news about her husband and continued to say “free, free, free!” She was looking forward to all the endless amount of free will she was going to have wether is where she wants to travel or what he wants to eat. She smiled at all the memories she was going to make and never thought about the old memories for a moment. Regardless, of how smothered Mrs. Mallard felt with her husband she still went back and forth about how she really felt about him. She deeply loved him and knew he would do anything for her. The reasons for this is she thinks back on all the nice things he has done for her. The husband did things such as putting a roof over her head, not making her work, having food on the table always and making her feel safe. Theses were all the thing that help her survived in life. This was special to her but then there were the down falls to being married.
The quote “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself.” Helped convinced that Mr. Mallard felt that marriage was a trap. It seems as if there were promises and false hopes when entering the marriage and it all begin to look like a lie. In the evidence, in the story it also seems as if she had a choice to be single, she would in a heartbeat. The part where she says “And yet she had loved him – sometimes. Often, she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!” She didn’t care anymore about him and really wanted to throw cation to the wind. This is because she would feel young again and as her old self. She also thought a marriage was awful because of all the duties she still had to do with out accomplishing her real goals. Mrs. Mallard would finally get a degree and finally for full her careers and possibly get to meet new people. All these positive outcomes surely outweigh any marriage for her.
The story ended in an ironic way because even though the husband was alive, she was already dead in the inside. This showed that he wasn’t at work and were most likely with another woman. The irony was she thought she was free but wasn’t as the end and for what? A heart breaks. What a waste she’d probably though. She is basically showing a representation of how woman give their whole life for a man that doesn’t even do the same. Men are and continue to break a woman’s heart and has been happening for years to come. It has become problematic. Chopin wants the readers to know the pain of the female aspect of life. The point she is trying to represent the change that needs to happen. This will make peace for the minds of woman and the generations to come. In conclusion, Mrs. Mallards story helped showed a glimpse of how the woman in general, herself and the author felt about woman’s Rights. That women are to be treated equally to men and be able to make up their own minds on what they want to do. The point she is trying to make is that no matter how heard you try to live for others and put your self aside they would always let you down. Even with woman’s rights and the feminine action she was probably also saying you must live life to the fullest. Do you no matter what the law was because life is not promise to no one. Another point Chopin was probably trying to make was if you work hard you should be respected as so. This must deal with getting a job and getting paid what the worker deserves. It shouldn’t depend on gender but with brains. She wanted things to change for the future generations and to have equality all around. Everyone is equal, and it should stay that way!
A Story of an Hour – Kate Chopin
The progressive era was a time when Americans were in the process of rebuilding the country and improving the lives of individuals. During this time, women truly found their voice. They became leaders in social and political movements and advocated for equality. As a female activist, Kate Chopin shared her stories targeting repressed, married women with a message of liberation in a male dominated society. Kate Chopin was a charismatic leader who used portrayal, tone and symbolism to convince her female audience.
Kate Chopin does an outstanding job portraying women as feeble as perceived by men during this period. In the beginning of the story, Mrs. Mallard learns the death of her husband and “wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment”. This was not a cry from the loss of her husband but the realization of the freedom she will have. She goes into detail about how women have to live for others and have restricted freedom within their marriages. The text states, “…she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white hands would have been.” Chopin explains how women felt powerless in their marriages and tied down.
Using tone, the author illustrated how emotions played a role in defining how women responded. Later on in the story, Mrs. Mallard realizes that with confidence and motivation she could have the life she always dreamt of having. Chopin writes, “When the storm of grief had spent itself, she went away to her room alone.” This tone shift is where Chopin redirects the character to be more independent and confident. These show how she used human emotions to convey her message.
Kate Chopin uses symbolism in her short story to convey her message to women. While sitting on her “comfortable, roomy armchair” Mrs. Mallard stares up at the sky. The story states, “she could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life.”The author writes this way to symbolize new beginnings and hope. Another example of symbolism that Chopin includes is, “there were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds…” The blue sky evokes a feeling of joy and desire.
In the end, Mrs. Mallard sadly dies. But the true reason for her death was what Chopin was trying to project. In the text she wrote, “when the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills.” Mrs. Mallard’s death was not caused by a heart disease but the shock of her “dead” husband’s ghost walking through the door and the realization of her soon to be lost freedom.
To conclude, Kate Chopin’s messages to repressed women was conveyed in her stories while using portrayal, tone, and symbolism in a society where men dominated. In “The Story of an Hour”, the character Mrs. Mallard was used to explain a woman’s perceived role and how they could overcome their dependency on men. According to the author, women are strong and have the same capabilities as men.
Theme of Gaining Freedom as a Woman in the Chrysanthemums and the Story of an Hour
The Concept of Freedom is an Ongoing Endeavor in Today’s Society
In America, freedom is boundless however, in the 19th-century freedom was nonexistent for most women. There are many similarities between the characters in John Steinbeck’s “The Chrysanthemums” and Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” The main character and protagonist in “The Chrysanthemums” is Elisa, while that of ‘The Story of an Hour” is Mrs. Mallard. In both stories, the authors describe women who are longing for a sense of freedom. The similarities between the main characters in “The Chrysanthemums” and “The Story of an Hour,” are the characters and their yearning for equality. Elisa and Mrs. Mallard are both dynamic characters. A dynamic character is a character that undergoes a series of changes throughout the narrative, primarily due to the conflicts a character faces on their journey.
Throughout both stories, the characters go through a series of sudden changes. Mrs. Mallard finds that her husband has passed away, and at the end of the narrative she discovers he was alive after all. She happens to die from heart troubles of the sudden news. During the time she finds out about her husband’s passing, she feels a sense of liberation. At first, when she was given the news she wept in unexpected moments. “She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her.” Afterward, Mrs. Mallard had an overwhelming feeling take over her. She now realizes she is independent again. The reader easily experiences the happiness she feels, with the repetition of the word, free. “She said it over and over her breath: ‘free, free, free!” At the very end of the narrative, she is shocked by the sight of her husband being alive. Mrs. Mallard’s shock at the sight of her husband ends in her death of a heart attack. Mrs. Mallard goes through a series of unexpected changes, which shapes her character as dynamic. Mrs. Mallard’s character is therefore developed throughout the narrative in a short amount of time and her character reveals many values that made her the way she was. She is a woman with a desire for freedom that was deprived by a man in marriage. She is very emotional because her freedom was denied for the second time. Her freedom was taken by her husband who was mistaken to have died, yet when she sees him she collapses and dies. The contrast is when the writer says that, “She had died of heart disease…of the joy that kills” . In “The Chrysanthemums” Elisa is battling with a similar sense of freedom that Mrs. Mallard faced. Elisa is craving for liberation in her life. She lives on a farm with her husband and spends her days tending the flowers, specifically chrysanthemums. Elisa is displayed as a strong woman, strong enough to break the back of a calf. A tinker comes along, while Elisa ‘s husband is at work. He asks Elisa if she needs any repairments. She agrees to give the tinker some work, and he sharpens her gardening scissors. Elisa also gives the tinker some of her chrysanthemums. Elisa was concentrating on the man, presumably in a sexual way.
“Kneeling there, her hand went out toward his legs in the greasy black trousers. Her hesitant fingers almost touched the cloth. Then her hand dropped to the ground.” The feelings she grasps are passionate, sexual feelings. As she has to stop herself from touching the man’s pants. At the end of the narrative, we find that Elisa isn’t as strong as we thought. She sees that the tinker threw the chrysanthemum sprouts on the side of the road and she starts to cry. Elisa goes through another change and snaps back to the reality of her present life. “The Story of an Hour” and “The Chrysanthemums” were both written in the early 19th century. During this time period, women struggled for equality, and for most women liberation was a continuous fight. In ‘The Chrysanthemums, the struggle for equality is portrayed through Steinbeck’s character Elisa. According to Stanley Renner, ‘The Chrysanthemums’ shows ‘a strong, capable woman kept from personal, social, and sexual fulfillment by the prevailing conception of a woman’s role in a world dominated by men’. The frustration is evident when her husband lacks to show appreciation of the beautiful garden she is tending. “Some of those yellow chrysanthemums you had this year were ten inches across. I wish you’d work out in the orchard and raise some apples that big.” Instead of showing appreciation toward her garden, her husband wants Elisa to work in the orchard, something that will benefit his farm. Elisa’s husband saw her as a housewife and a gardener. He shows little appreciation towards the chrysanthemums. If the chrysanthemums were to die, so would Elisa. The closer one looks at the story, the reader can see how Elisa is being imprisoned by men. John Steinbeck provides the reader with the message of Elisa being imprisoned, by mentioning Elisa’s fence in the story. “Elisa started at the sound of her husband’s voice. He had come near quietly, and had leaned over the wire fence that protected her flower garden from cattle and dogs and chickens.” That “wire fence” kept her trapped from the freedom she is yearning for in her life. The wire fence is a symbol for herself. The fence isolates her from the real world, and as long as she stays inside the fence she will be safe.
According to Mark Cunningham, ‘The Story of an Hour’ portrays the position of women in the nineteenth-century American society, as the attempt to break from the life-denying limitations of a patriarchal society.” Mrs. Mallard is similar to the character Elisa, in the narrative “The Chrysanthemums,” because they both desired freedom. When Mrs. Mallard is told the news of her husband’s death, she is at first emotional. “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself, she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.” Mrs. Mallard thought that life would be long. She now ” saw a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened an spread her arms out to them in welcome.” Instead of hearing the news of her husband’s death (as many women would have heard the same), with a feeling of denial, an overwhelming sense of freedom took over her. Mrs. Mallard has an epiphany, a sudden realization that she is free. Chopin captures a marriage that is dominated by man. Mr. Mallard clearly doesn’t treat his wife with great matters. This is showed because Mrs. Mallard is at peace, even if her husband is dead. Women during this time had little to no independence in their households. Women were expected to accommodate their husbands with many household chores. The story implies the way that society was during the 19th century and the resistance of women’s rights.
The story shows the resistance by Mrs. Mallard’s death of the sight of her husband. Another instance is when Mrs. Mallard’s sister is worried she is making herself sick, during her time of grieving. However, Mrs. Mallard is revealing her freedom. Both her husband and sister intervene in her life, essentially demonstrating that her freedom is impossible to hold. Through Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts, the reader can see a clear view of the aspects of the patriarchal society. Mrs. Mallard didn’t realize how confined she was until she was no longer constricted in her marriage.
Sense of Freedom in “Woman Hollering Creek”, “Story of an Hour” & “A Rose for Miss Emily”
Woman Hollering Creek, Story of an Hour and A Rose for Miss Emily have many similarities with symbolism, characters, and societies expectation of women around that time period. With such dominant societal views concerning female gender roles, these three stories all have connections of how love and fear go hand in hand with acquiring your own freedom or even the loss of your freedom.
Cultural and societal views have had a major impact on both men and women for hundreds years. However, the standards for women have been unfair and unrealistic. Women had to abide by these roles and stay home and cook, take care of the household as well as take care of their Husband. Having to live this role makes a woman feel like they don’t have any sort of independence and they are property of their Husband instead of feeling like an equal in the relationship.
In the story Woman Hollering Creek, Cleofilas has a fairy tale way of looking at relationships. When she gets married her Father reminds her that he would “never throw her away.” Growing up with only a Father figure who took one the role of Mother and Father, Cleofila’s relied on Telenovelas for her insight on what a real relationship should be like. After moving to the U.S with her new husband, she promptly realized that she would not be living the lavish lifestyle of what she had seen in the Telenovelas. Moving to the U.S didn’t make Cleofilas a free independent woman. In fact, moving only made her more of a captive in this toxic marriage.
In Story of an Hour, Mrs. Mallard didn’t necessarily have a physically abusive relationship with Mr. Mallard, in fact, quite opposite of what Cleofilas and her Husband had. Mr. Mallard was extremely loving and caring to Mrs. Mallard. However, Mrs. Mallard felt suffocated and feared she would never be able to live her own life. With Mrs. Mallards heart troubles and having to stay home with an overbearing kind of love, she was trapped.
Having to abide by stereotypical gender roles, both of women felt captive, defenseless and dependent. However, Miss Emily’s captivity was much like Cleofilas with the fact the love of her Fathers was all she had known. When her Father died, she refused to accept the fact that her Father was gone and kept the body for in her house before giving her father a proper burial. Miss Emily had an attachment to a love that she never got, only a Fathers love. She feared letting go, and feared she would never truly be loved. The only way to acquire freedom is to take action yourself. Gathering up the courage to take your own action and do something without having a man’s approval was extremely rare in this time period. Even in today’s society it can be hard to gather the courage to let go of a toxic relationship and do what you need to do for yourself. With Cleofilas being physically and mentally abused regularly, things were far from a fairy tale life. Cleofilas knew this was not the life she had wanted and her husband was not the man she had envisioned marrying. It’s easy to see how Cleofilas had such a misunderstanding of what a real-life relationship is compared to the ones she had always seen on the Telenovelas.
Gender roles were very prominent around this time period. Women are supposed to have specific duties and ways to carry themselves, not only in society but also at home. Being controlled by your Husband was normal. Men ran the household. Women were expected to stay home, cook and clean, remain classy as well as obedient. One day at a routine checkup, her bruises were noticed at the doctor’s office. Cleofilas got her big break. Felice and Cleofilas headed to the Greyhound. Felice was not like any woman Cleofilas had ever seen. Felice was exquisite to Cleofilas. Felice had broken the stereotypical gender role. This was way out of the norm of how a woman was supposed to act. She was bold, independent and even owned her own truck. She was her own women! It showed Cleofilas this could be her fresh start, she could do this without Juan Pedro. Mrs. Mallard’s decision wasn’t as hard, she didn’t have to run away. When Mrs. Mallard’s thought her husband had died, she had a sense of freedom.
She could finally breathe, and live her own life. Mrs. Mallard didn’t have to make the decision for herself to leave her own marriage, the decision was made for her. It was the easiest way out. However, with Miss. Emily, she made the decision that she would not let Homer leave her, ever. Her fear of losing love drove her to an unstable mental state. Miss. Emily wanted love so badly, she was willing to give up her own freedom for love. When Cleofilas and Felice crossed the creek and Felice let out her yell, it represented her freedom. The creek represents the path that is feared, the path that is less traveled. Even the name of the creek seems very intimidating, and almost dark. The path that Cleofilas needed to take was also intimidating and frightening. Gathering the courage to get on the path less traveled to leave her husband took someone else helping her, but she finally did it. Leaving her ‘love’ meant freedom. Mrs. Mallard had heart problems which not only represented a physical disease, but it also represented an emotional condition for her as well. Her heart troubles simulated having trouble with her marriage, with love.
How Kate Chopin Uses a Marxist Lens in the Story of an Hour
The Marxist Lens as It Relates to “The Story of an Hour”
To the untrained eye, a story could be viewed one-dimensionally; a tale might only appeal to emotion while logic is left out in the cold. Equally, logic may be forgotten while emotion is heavily focused on. However, through the use of Critical Lenses, readers can begin to see greater depth in literature. As readers find connections through Critical Lenses, they become more educated on various topics, more aware of social, political, and even logical abstractions. Instead of failing to retain the intent and content of the material, they even can remember details of stories more vividly when truly examining literature rather than reading it once for entertainment (or chore). Lenses help readers to focus in on literature in more specific ways, in turn, readers understand more concepts and how they apply to unique areas of life, human emotion, and thought. One such lens is the Marxist lens which focuses mainly on the social, political, and economic aspects which are underlaid beneath many compositions. It might surprise readers to know that, by the use of this lens, traces of these subjects can be found in almost any work despite the original nature and intent of the tale. A prime example demonstrating the power of the Marxist lens can be seen when the lens is applied to Kate Chopin’s short story, “The Story of an Hour”. This short conte depicts the brief sentiment of freedom felt by the fictitious character Mrs. Mallard as she learns that her husband has been killed in a railroad accident. However, her blissful reverie is put to death by death itself when her husband, alive and well, walks through the doors of their home to meet her. On the surface, this would appear to be a tale void of social, political, or economic association; how could such logical themes develop in such an emotional tale? Yet, the Marxist lens can even be applied to this story and reveal revelations in the tale that might not be seen without the lens. The social, political, and economic characteristics of the Marxist lens can clearly be seen in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”.
The social element of the Marxist lens can be heavily applied to understanding the depth of “The Story of an Hour” in a greater way. While reading the story without a critical lens, readers might only see Mrs. Mallard as odd and misfortunate but with the Marxist lens, it becomes apparent that more social concepts line the character and her tale. An example of a social concept seen in this story is Feminism versus the traditional views of a woman and her “place”. Mrs. Mallard represents a woman trapped by traditional views but is longing to break free from social norms. As Mrs. Mallard declares, “Free! Body and soul free!” (356), the reader can clearly grasp the understanding that her marriage was viewed at as bondage, even though her husband was perceived as kind and gentle. It is almost scandalous that a woman would joy over her kind husband’s death and rejoice over freedom in body and spirit. At this point in the story, Mrs. Mallard is claiming rights over her body, her mind, her thoughts, her decisions, and her actions. In 1894, when this story was published, such a concept was scandalous, to say the least, but Mrs. Mallard doesn’t even stop to consider this; the idea of freedom over herself is so much larger than the fear of society. On the contrary, her sister Josephine portrays the classic woman of the day. By her name, Josephine is given her own identity, whereas Mrs. Mallard tries to break from under her husband’s identity; though Josephine is given this freedom of identity, she is so consumed by traditional views that she behaves just as any other woman of the day. Though the story opens with a line of how fragile Mrs. Mallard is, she is strong, brave and resilient; Josephine is truly the one portrayed as emotional, worrisome, and fragile; she fears this change in her sister, this break from social norms. These two sisters are examples of feminism versus traditionalist views and how they exist to war against each other. Through the Marxist lens, readers can see the uprising of social issues and conversations in literature.
Not only does “The Story of an Hour” help readers to see social issues through the Marxist lens, they can also grasp political concepts as well; in truth, the social issues go hand in hand with political discussions. At the time that Chopin wrote this short story, the women’s rights movement was less than 50 years in the making and relatively new to the western world; the empowering of women was not only social but also political. Though it was over 20 years after this short story was written that women gained the right to vote, it was smaller scale moves, like publishing this story, that sparked an enormous change in how women were approached politically. It was quotes such as this that troubled the waters of traditionalist views of the day, “…she would live for herself” (357). Mrs. Mallard would live to be her own provider, her own decision maker, and her own fulfillment. With the power of free will at her disposal, there would be no limits to the things she could do, but the idea of a woman with such power over herself was outrageous to the social and political culture of the day. Tales such as these would spark a rebellion in women and this social break would, in turn, cause political changes which led to women’s rights to vote, to gain protection from harassment, and to be treated equally with men.
The third part of the Marxist lens is the economic aspect; by this, readers can understand the economic state of a character and how that might relate to real people of that time period. In “The Story of an Hour”, Mrs. Mallard’s dwelling place is described as a house with multiple rooms, two stories, comfortable furniture. Mrs. Mallard does not work and never thinks of an impoverished new life, she only thinks of freedom to go and do as she pleases. All of these elements make it clear that she is at least of middle-class stature, if not high class. When she says, “Free, free, free” (357), perhaps she is referring to social, political, and economic freedom. As a wealthy widow, she would be able to continue a life of grandeur without the strain of a man’s control upon her life. Every financial decision would be hers to make, every purchase, every expense. All that she cared about was freedom to make her own choices in every area of her life.
Through the Marxist lens, readers gain insight into the lives of characters and they see how these characters and their stories relate to their lives as individuals. Equally, they can see how different the characters are from them and their lives. No matter what tale or composition, readers can begin to make new discoveries with the complex, yet simple, Marxist lens. With this lens, readers can begin to comprehend any topic as it relates to the three elements of the Marxist lens; whether it be human emotion or bondages, readers can apply the Marxist lens to these topics. Yet, with Chopin’s tale hand in hand with the Marxist lens, readers can understand what freedom means, not only to characters, but to them in society, in politics, and in economics.
The Story of an Hour : Mrs. Mallard Disagreement to Marriage
Too many individuals in western society, marriage is a spiritual union between two people who are in love with one another. However, others may view it as a mere contract that bounds them for eternity. Mrs. Mallard is a character who views marriage in a negative light. In “The Story of an Hour”, by Kate Chopin, a combination of literary devices and liberating mood depicts marital oppression for females in the nineteenth century.
Visual imagery is the first literary device that highlights the meaning of the story. “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with new spring life…patches of blue sky showing here and there….” (Pg. 179-180) The scene is set after Mrs. Mallard is given the unfortunate news that her husband had passed away. However, the visual imagery in this story depicts a beautiful sunny day in the spring. Spring is a season with positive connotations. When identifying it, the reader associates this word with new beginnings and happiness. This creates a positive mood that contrasts with the death of Mrs. Mallard’s husband. A description of rain, thunder, and gloomy skies would have been more appropriate. The delightful atmosphere of this literary work foreshadows the fact that Mr. Mallard’s passing might not have been so unfortunate after all.
Personification plays a key role in conveying the protagonist’s negative view of marriage. “She felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air…she was beginning to recognize the thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back at her will.” (Pg. 180) Mrs. Mallard’s feeling was personified as this unstoppable force rushing toward her. Chopin’s utilization of repetition only intensifies her emotion. “She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” (Pg. 180) Her sudden apparent feeling turned out to be that of intense joy. It was so powerful that it took over her mind, body, and soul. In her time, women were pressured by society to marry and serve under their husbands. Since she was unable to survive without a man, Mrs. Mallard was unable to live life the way she wanted to. This oppresses women by not giving them a choice to be anything more than a housewife and child bearer. Like the spring season, the death of her husband meant a new beginning in her life. She would have full control of the house and fortune. Her view of marriage along with the use of personification and repetition creates a liberating mood. The reader can feel Mrs. Mallard’s emotions of freedom and empowerment.
Chopin concludes her point with a touch of cosmic irony. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.” (Pg. 181) It turns out that Mr. Mallard was alive and well the entire time. This causes Mrs. Mallard to die of a heart attack the moment she sees him. The overwhelming feeling of disappointment was too much for her heart to take. This is also dramatic irony since everyone character believed Mrs. Mallard died of uncontrollable joy. As suggested in the title, her freedom was but a mere illusion that only lasted for an hour. She was no longer able to make her own decisions and be her own person. Her disappointment highlights the fact that she had enough of feeling trapped in her marriage.
In “The Story of an Hour”, by Kate Chopin, a combination of literary devices and liberating mood portray marital oppression in the nineteenth century. The protagonist’s reaction to her husband being dead and alive depicts her struggle of confinement that marriage had provided for her. Chopin pushed societal boundaries by challenging this accepted concept of women being legally treated as property. She had given a voice to the housewives who were unable to express the same views through Mrs. Mallard.