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Kate Chopin's short story, "The Story of an Hour," tells of a woman who feels liberated upon hearing the news of her husband's death. Mrs. Mallard looks from her window out to the wide world beyond and imagines the possibilities of all the things she might do with her new found liberty now that she is "Free! Body and soul free!"
Kate Chopin resolves the story by cutting Mrs. Mallard's joy short. Upon walking downstairs with Louise, the central character in the story is shocked to see her husband enter through the front door. Mrs. Mallard's heart stops, or has an attack, and in a final moment of irony, the doctors explain the cause of her death as an over-abundance of "joy that kills."
Although Chopin's ending disappoints the reader who identified with poor, trapped Mrs. Mallard, the irony of the reappearance of the husband brings the story full circle. The optimist in me would love to see Mrs. Mallard take control of her own life, travel, and do all the things of which she dreamed. Chopin's ending suggests that there can be no liberation for married women, only death; the perfect ending for "The Story of an Hour" would reveal the opposite condition, an ending which empowers the female and presents opportunities for Mrs. Mallard to be the kind of woman she wished to be.
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