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Both Nora and Mrs. Mallard are products of the Victorian Era, a time when women were viewed more as possessions than as people. Both women also come to points of epiphany in their lives when they realize that their role as wife does not make them happy.
For Mrs. Mallard, this moment comes when she thinks her husband has died. For the first moment of her life, she feels hopeful for the future. For the first time she finally feels "free, body and soul, free," and repeats that phrase over and over to herself. She knows that from that point on she will be her own person, able to make her own decisions, and though she often loved her controlling husband, she knows she will be happier with him dead. When she exits her bedroom, she is no longer Mrs. Mallard, but Louise. This is significant, because heretofore, she has always been identified as an extension of someone else. Now she is herself. The moment it is revealed that Brently Mallard (who has always had a first name and identity of his own) is actually alive, she is so distraught that her weak heart (which is also a symbol of her heart-broken state) gives out, and she dies, a fate that to her is better than remaining a chaste, silent and obedient wife.
For Nora, the realization occurs when her husband, Torvald, learns of the loan she has secretly taken and that the male signature (required for women to get loans in that time) was forged, a fact that will disgrace him in the community. He treats her like a child, and blames her for the ruin of him even though she only took the loan to save his life, since his doctor had said Torvald would die without the extended vaction that Nora's loan funded. Torvald insists that she be a wife in appearance only, and that because she is witless and incapable of making wise decisions, that she be completely separated from her children. She will be his wife in public, for his his convenience, but in the home, she will be locked away from the family.
When Torvald later learns that Krogstad, the man blackmailing Nora, will agree to destry the evidence of Nora's crime, Torvald returns to his former doting and adoring self. He tells Nora he was distraught and that he loves her. But Nora, having had her eyes opened to the truth, that she is Torvald's trophy, his plaything only--his doll that he can dress up and show off, she realizes how unfulfilling her life really is, and leaves.
Through Mrs. Mallard and Nora respectively, both "The Story of an Hour" and A Doll House show the unhappy plight of women who are told by society that that they must be subservient to men. Both women are choked by a patriarchal system that refurses to allow them to be themselves, and relegates them to being merely an extension of the men who control them. Both women escape this trap. Nora, having her old friend, Mrs. Linde, whose husband died and left her in the situation Mrs. Mallard could only dream of being in, leaves to find her own identity and happiness. For poor Mrs. Mallard, the only escape is death.
Below are some links to character analysis for both women and the themes that make these two stories important.
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