“The Story of an Hour” written by Kate Chopin is the depiction of an unfortunate fate of Mrs. Louise Millard, who is a married woman that as she believes suffers from oppressiveness and longs for independence. The author portrays the life of the protagonist and her desperate intentions to run away from a severe reality while dreaming about new horizons and fulfillment of her hidden reveries. The plot immediately immerses a reader into a short moment of life which is full of unforgettable events; however, the tone of the piece of writing is based on irony. In particular, Chopin represents an emancipated woman who does not value the sense of life as she lacks spirituality. Overall, feminism as well as the oppressiveness in the marriage are considered to be the primary issues that direct Mrs. Millard to a wrong path – the path of death.
To start from, freedom is like an obsessive idea that limits the protagonist’s ability to appreciate the meaning of everything she possesses in the marriage. Chopin draws attention to the fact that Mrs. Millard, a central figure of the narrative, gains freedom not taking into account the situation that has led to it, namely, her husband’s death. She does not even realize that she is a widow and does not experience any grief that is typical for the situation she is in. This allows everyone to thoroughly examine her nature and attitude towards the question of marriage. It becomes evident that the woman has not experienced any happiness in wedlock, and therefore, horrible news makes her happy. Even though Louise must be in sorrow, she feels some moral satisfaction inside her mind and just pretends to be sad. Perhaps, the woman associates herself with a poor victim of consequences being forced to live in the marriage, and even the mention of her heart disease is nothing more than the irony. The words “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death” sound like a mockery indeed as it is understandable that she does not love her husband (Chopin). Thus, her husband’s death is just a chance to fulfill her dreams to start a new life without boundaries and limitations.
Another theme that is an integral part of the entire narrative is the one of emancipation. It is the so-called driving force that also helps to reflect Mrs. Millard’s nature and character. It is necessary to indicate that the main heroine lives in her own world – the world of limited opportunities according to her views. However, life plays a trick with Louise; it seems that it defines her female nature and enhances her irresistible desire to be free like a bird. That is why the author uses the word “heart” as a precise symbol of ambivalence excluding love. It also symbolizes Mrs. Millard’s miserable efforts to hide from the external world that cannot accept her due to her disobedience. Unfortunately, the woman perceives life through the prism of personal needs for freedom and independence which actually do not exist in the marriage. Then, she follows her will not realizing that it may destroy her life. It means that nothing matters but freedom that is of great importance. Eventually, it is too obvious that Louise is a self-concentrated person, as she does not notice what happens around her. She is the center of her own universe, and the surrounding including her sister, Josephine, does not play any role at all.
Therefore, Mr. Millard’s death makes his wife happy as it allows her to accomplish her dreams and gives a boundless amount of unknown possibilities to achieve a primary goal of her boring life. The words “Free! Body and soul free!” emphasize that Louise feels no grief in spite of her husband’s decease (Chopin). At the same time, they demonstrate that her loss is of no importance to her, but she still pretends to be a weak creature while crying. Of course, it contributes to the creation of an emotional tone of the narrative. Nevertheless, the reader realizes that she does not need any consolation from Josephine as she is quite a strong person. In this case, one may actually assume that it is Josephine who looks weak, emotional, and ineffectual. However, it is only a stereotype. As for Louise, the woman is very smart and sly because she immediately starts using a right tactic as for her behavior. When she remains alone in her room, she stops crying as her tears are just a protective tool which helps her to hide her true intentions. Although it sounds awful, Brently’s death only inspires her to imagine and create various plans related to her future.
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Obviously, emotions play a significant role, and they are present even in the title that influences a reader. Reading it, one may conclude at once that just one hour covers the whole life and different vital events. Such a short period reflects a close interaction between life and death. For instance, when Louise becomes aware of the news concerning her husband’s death, her obliviousness to the beauty of life is destroyed under the powerful influence of emotions. It is the revelation of the protagonist’s awakening while being oppressed in the marriage, despite the fact that nothing inappropriate is demonstrated about Mr. Millard’s attitude towards his wife. On the other hand, it is hard to believe that after the husband’s loss, the woman may experience joy. In this case, the explanation is simple as Louise perceives any marriage like the forbidden pleasure. However, the death of Mr. Millard builds a sad tone too as this event compels the reader to experience sympathy. Eventually, emotions do not allow Mrs. Millard to accomplish her reveries which remain just pipedreams forever when her husband appears alive.
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The irony of the story lies in the fact that an emotional awakening becomes a killing force for Mrs. Millard. The point is that Brently’s death gives Louise a glimpse of a better future, but the destiny implements its treacherous plan. The man is alive, and the woman’s happiness is broken into pieces. The last words of the narrative “she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills” are full of sarcasm and irony (Chopin). These define that her heart gave her a small hope that was taken away as a punishment. Mrs. Millard cannot cope with such a great disappointment, and therefore, she dies due to the loss of joy – the greatest disappointment of her life. Undoubtedly, it is a dramatic hour of awakening.
In conclusion, “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin depicts the tragedy which occurs during a very short period in the life of the main character. The author portrays the theme of feminism based on the marriage oppression that makes the woman try to look for freedom instead of enjoying her present life. Unexpectedly, joy causes death as Mrs. Millard cannot accept the irony of life. Eventually, death becomes the primary reason for the loss of her dreams to be free and independent. Her feministic views also conduced to her abyss as her dream has become her killing obsession. Undoubtedly, life is unpredictable, and the paradox of life is inexplicable.
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