Jan 12, 2018 in Literature

Story of an Hour

Kate Chopin is renowned for her dramatic and monumental presentation of the issues facing women and men in marriages. In her ‘Story of an Hour’, she vividly presents Louise Mallard as a woman who is caught up in two worlds: mourning her husband or celebrating the freedom that came with the demise of the husband (Katechopin.org). As it will be demonstrated, it is apparent that Mrs. Mallard loved her husband. Contrastingly, she was also uncomfortable with being controlled by another person. These two positions led to mixed feelings upon the news that her husband had died in a train accident. This papers adopts two schools of literary criticism namely deconstruction and feminist criticism. In the story, Chopin brings out the contrast towards the end of the story in order to demonstrate that love, compromise and marriage are realities that human persons have to adapt to lest they get consumed.

Discussion

There is no doubt that Mrs. Mallard loved her husband. This is demonstrated by the fact that she cried a lot after she got news that her husband had died in a train accident. However, as the story progresses, it is found out that she was happy anyway because she will free for rest of her life. Hitherto, the two schools of thought can be applied in investigating the core above state of affairs. From a feminist perspective, it raises serious concerns and questions about how men and women relate with each other in relationships. In other words, it is clear that there were differential power differences between the husband and wife. In most cases, the man is usually in control of most of the things, something seemingly annoyed Mrs. Mallard. Therefore, her happiness after a period of sobbing was justified by her feminist outlook. However, the fact that her joy was never realized could be a symbolic indication that perhaps people cannot be always equal in marriages. The popular and ideal view, however, is that spouses should be equal. In this analysis, deconstruction will be used to show more than one meaning of the love of Louise Mallard before supposed death of her joy after envisaging lifelong freedom: she uttered the words “free! free! free!”.

Using deconstruction, it is possible to clearly determine the hidden motivations of the protagonist. Her ‘sincere’ love for her husband may have been actually sincere or as an accepted situation in life where she could do nothing about it. According to Nancy, although Chopin presents her as a sincerely loving wife, it is apparent that she was not. It is not likely that one would delight in death of a person she or he really loves. For her, she may simply have compromised her happiness and freedom for the sake of the marriage. Her tragic death at the end could be Chopin’s style of communicating that whenever people get tired of compromising, it becomes difficult for them to live or survive. With regard to her documented joy, there exists great contrast when the Chopin writes that Mrs. Mallard wash sure she would cry again after seeing the corpse of her husband. The main question revolves on why she should cry again yet she was happy to be free at last. It is reported that she valued her freedom and independence than love. According to Chopin, ‘There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory’.  Deconstructing this could perhaps lead to the conclusion that she was not happy at all but was undergoing a psychological condition that led to involuntary uttering of words as opposed to purposeful joy as indicated by ‘she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips’.

Although Chopin explicitly presents Mrs. Mallard as having valued her independence more than her love for her husband, this is contestable. This is because if the latter was more moving, the news that her husband’s death should have made her get a heart attack. Instead, she cried: meaning that she loved her husband. Additionally, the phrase ‘joy that kills’ might be treated as evidence of her love for her husband. Moreover, it is still possible to get another meaning from her death. In this case, the main question to ask would be whether she died of joy that her husband was not dead or because she had a sickly heart. At the beginning, it is written that ‘Knowing that 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’. This is an indication that marriages are a complicated affair that is filled with a mixture of interpretations, motivations and intends.

The ideas entrenched in the story about marriage are a reflection author’s personal life. Having had a happy marriage, he presents Mrs. Mallard as happily married too. Her basic view is that people in a marriage should be equal. Although spouses are different anatomically, they are equal in dignity. She could be said to have used a feminist perspective in presenting her ideas. However, unlike the negative attitude that is usually attached to feminist issues, her use of feminism is constructive. If through deconstruction one argues that Mrs. Mallard died because her husband’s re-appearance would take freedom from her, then through feminist criticism, it is possible to explain that husbands who concentrate power to themselves are likely to ‘kill their wives’.

Most of Chopin’s writings, including this short story, are a reflection of the freedom that women are deprived of whenever they are subjected to oppressive marriages. The same is made strong when we learn that her mother, too, attained freedom after her husband died. However, there is a need to deconstruct this notion. This is because going strictly by Chopin’s idea, it would point out that marriages do not work; which is not true. The fact that a few have not worked does not necessarily mean that others cannot work. In this line of thought, it is contrasting that Mrs. Mallard loved her husband so much that she died of joy of her existence yet the author would want the reader to believe that love and independence cannot co-exist.

Some sources posit that it is not clear why Mrs. Mallard was too happy (Katechopin.org). Although the story provides the basic building blocks, through deconstruction, it is possible that these may not have been the only meanings. It is possible that different sexes have different psychological needs which need to be fulfilled. From a feminist perspective, husbands do not always understand the psychological needs of their spouses and vise versa. In cases where the woman is egoistic, she may feel restrained and controlled. It is possible to infer that the author was such a woman as evident through her representation in the character of Mrs. Mallard. The author appears to be for the idea that for a marriage to work, the husband and the wife must complement each other. As a result, this may mean that differences in power must exist but should not be used as yardstick for equality. It the husband has more power financially or otherwise, it does not mean that the wife is a lesser being. This appears to be the central message of Chopin in the story.

The same theme seems to appear in most of Chopin’s stories. In ‘A Dresden Lady in Dixie’, Kate, Wilson and Seyersted (345) present a self-asserted character. This character, the protagonist by the name Madame Valtour was determined to determine who had taken the relic from its usual place. She questioned the maid as well as visited her friend. Although there may be no husband-wife dichotomy, the question of female independence is very pronounced. The protagonist wants to be in control of her own belongings.

Conclusion

Kate Chopin relates her life stories in most of her literary works. This was seen in the way she designed Story of an Hour. The story is based on a woman who delights at the death of her husband because she would at last be free and independent. Ironically though, the husband was not dead at all. Upon his arrival, the protagonist dies out of ‘joy’ that her husband was not dead. This was a proof that she actually loved him. Although in some cases the author presents the wife otherwise, it was possible, through deconstruction and feminist criticism, to bring out several possible interpretations of Chopin’s discussion on marriage, love and women issues. Indeed, Mrs. Mallards was a true representation of Chopin’s happiness.

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