The Story Of an Hour Feminist Criticism

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Introduction

“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin portrays the events that happen in the ultimate moments of Louise Mallard’s life, a housekeeper overjoyed after being wrongly notified of her husband’s passing. Currently, the question of gender equality is one of the most urgent, because for many years the society was dominated by men. The female aspiration to be free has resulted in the rise of the feminist movement, which aims to end inequality among men and women. Kate Chopin’s indignation towards men is shown in the way Mrs. Mallard is happy to find out that her husband is gone. She is delighted to be released from the chains of marriage. She mutters that her soul and body are free. Despite her heart condition, Mrs. Mallard believes she could accomplish something meaningful with her life if she were not shackled to her marriage. In Kate Chopin’s time, the suppression of women was ordinary, and the social construct of marriage fostered this suppression. Marriage in “The Story of an Hour” is presented as oppressive to a woman’s personality.

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The representation of oppressive patriarchal society in the fate of Louise Mallard

The Mallards represent an average middle-class family. Brantley Mallard, the husband, earns money to feed the family while Mrs. Mallard is responsible for maintaining the family as she has to stay at home. Bearing a deeper look at the story, it becomes apparent that Mrs. Mallard is affected by the social perception of her husband and the society she finds herself in. Chopin reveals that Kate is depressed from the outset. Her husband is identified from the distinct beginning of the narrative, while Mrs. Mallard’s name does not appear until the end of the plot. Marriage is considered as an overbearing strength for Mrs. Mallard. Louisa’s reflection and reasoning shows that she has experienced a certain amount of suppression and this is something that she deeply experiences in her inner state in the novel. Therefore, it makes it obvious that marriage restricts the freedom of women and causes them to suffer from oppression.

Women are presented as fragile from the first moments of the story. The author states: “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death”. These words indicate that Mrs. Mallard does not possess the moral courage to accept the news of her husband’s death, bearing in mind that she herself may die when she learns about it. Mrs. Mallard’s heart disease may embody a symbol of the suppressive ideals and feelings of her marriage and may be connected to the character of the marriage from which she seeks to deliver herself. Such a manifestation speaks to the reader about how overwhelming an abusive marriage can be for a woman, as the state of Louise’s marriage can be likened to heart disease, a deadly state.

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At the time when Chopin composed “The Story of an Hour” in the nineteenth century, men maintained absolute control over women in marriage, and women were expected to obey this male supremacy. Mrs. Mallard’s life vividly represents this state of things, as she lives by her husband’s rules. Following the passing of her husband, Mrs. Mallard is excited to take her life into her own hands in the years ahead, as there will be no one to impose his vision of life on her. While she is aware that she will be grieving and weeping during her husband’s funeral, she also understands that after this distressing experience, she will enjoy “a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely”. Mrs. Mallard’s fascination does not necessarily imply that she did not sincerely love her husband; she was just delighted that she would be determining all the significant choices about her life.

Conclusion

Towards the end of the novel, when Brantley Mallard returns home, unaware of what has taken place, Mrs. Mallard, finding him alive, falls to her death. Doctors believe that she died of heart disease and happiness. This is hardly the case, however. Most probably, the woman died from the unexpected disappointment of realizing that life was returning to a condition of submission instead of the freedom she had expected. The freedom that Mrs. Mallard does not recognize she is looking for arrives with the death of Brantley, her husband. But it disappears when she notes him approaching. The man not only monitors her deeds, but also brings about her demise. Chopin employs several literary techniques to represent the suppression of women in marriage through the character of Louisa. She demonstrates the relationship between the patriarchal structure of society and marriage. She states the oppression in marriage when she mentions that any efforts of women to attain freedom were crushed. “The Story of an Hour” reflects the era in which the book was created.

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