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Meaning in 'The Story of an Hour'

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Kate Chopin is the author of the famous short story “The Story of an Hour”. This is the story about a woman who begins to feel alive after hearing the news about her husband’s death and who dies after having realized the truth. The point of the story is in taking the opportunity. The main character allows herself to live the moment and pays the price. The happiness about the husband’s death strengthens the shock thus killing the poor woman. The short story does not have a central theme. It combines different issues such as freedom, guilt and shock.

The question of freedom is relevant for many pieces of literature of the time when women were not allowed to make own decisions. In this case, it is extremely close to the problem of women’s place in the society before the emergence of the feminist movement. Kate Chopin uses this meaning in most of her stories and novels. Even though, the main character of the short story is not an open feminist, she dreams about her independence. The words from the story, “She said it over and over under the breath: “free, free, free!” (Chopin, 2000) prove this statement. Mrs. Mallard realizes, “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin, 2000). The new reborn woman is now full of hope. She thanks to the fate and accident which made her free. The author describes the woman in that moment. Her heart beats fast; her eyes are keen and bright. The blood is “warmed and relaxed every inch of her body” (Chopin, 2000).

The joy about the husband’s death did not last. Mr. Brently Mallard appears safe and sound and the woman dies. Here come the new questions. They concern the cause of her death. What does Mrs. Ballard feel? Shock, guilt or maybe both? These are the next two issues of the story. Of course, the last sentence “She had died of heart disease – of the joy that kills” (Chopin, 2000) contains the explanation, but it is for the people of Mrs. Mallard’s company. The reader is honoured to know the truth. Planning her future the woman has nothing that can disturb her. Suddenly, she meets the main obstacle – her husband. The strong hit reaches straight into the heart. All her dreams fall and break at the moment. She has already buried her husband, but now he is back. She cannot live with this man anymore. Moreover, she would not be able to look in the eyes of this man. Mrs. Mallard  perceives the “ghost” and dies. Secondly, the sense of guilt fulfils the “dying process”. The woman realizes how horrible it was to “build” her illusive freedom on the husband’s “bones”. Even the fact that, at the beginning, she was sorry and disappointed does not help her to justify herself. Mrs. Mallard is a woman of conscience who allowed herself to draw in her horns.   

The story depicts the tricky life. The dream about freedom, the shock of the unexpected meeting and the sense of guilt in front of her husband and, first of all, the main character,  Mrs. Mallard are the central themes of the story. Kate Chopin shows how women were oppressed by the men’s authority. On the other hand, the author depicts their conscience and aim to act fairly.

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