After Mrs. Mallard first learns of her husband's death (a false report),
She wept at once, with sudden wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone.
Mrs. Mallard's response to the news is both conventional and expected: the loss of her husband, in practical and emotional terms, is devastating because Mrs. Mallard's economic status may be in jeopardy and, perhaps more important, her husband's death threatens her physical, emotional and psychological stability. We know, for example, that her sister and friend fear for her life because of a heart condition.
As she walks upstairs to her bedroom, Mrs. Mallard begins a transition that becomes the central theme of this story. Before she actually realizes what Mr. Mallard's death really means to her, she sits and gazes out of the window:
[she first notices] the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. . . . The notes of a distant song . . . reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.
Chopin has packed this paragraph (5) with images of life's renewal--new leaves, "breath of rain," a pleasant song, birds singing--and, given Mrs. Mallard's transition from sadness to joy within a few minutes--one must conclude that the imagery of this paragraph functions as symbolic of the important changes going on within Mrs. Mallard even before she actually recognizes those changes. The images of new life can be seen as a reflection of Mrs. Mallard's soul and mind as she begins to understand, at first reluctantly, that her husband's death has freed her from an institution (marriage) that has repressed her.