Describe Louise’s feelings upon the death of her husband.  Then, describe her feelings when her husband returns home. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance.  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.  She would have no one follow her.

The paradox of this passage in which Mrs. Mallard senses "wild abandonment"-- as though a gate were opened and she could rush out from confinement into freedom--and the "storm of grief" suggests that her distress over loss may not be for Mr. Mallard.  Also, it is odd that Mrs. Mallard does not react as most wives would, in the "paralyzed" fashion, or seeking the comfort of another's arms, but "would have no one follow her."

The apparent paradoxes of the story continue as Mrs. Mallard has unusual feelings about the loss of her husband.  Upon arriving in her room, she turns to the west window, looking to the future--not reminiscently glancing at her room--sensing "the delicious breath of rain"--an apparent paradox as rain is often symbolic of crying and grief.  Seeing the patches of blue sky, which indicate happiness, Mrs. Mallard sobs "as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams."  This sobbing is not for another, but for herself, just as the child sobs for itself in dreams.  With the mention of Mrs. Mallard's face showing signs of repression, there seems an indication that Louis Mallard may be crying and grieving for her years of repression rather than for Mr. Mallard's death as she waits in her room for "something coming to her...fearfully," the freedom that she initially felt in her "sudden, wild abandonment."

It is the acceptance of this freedom, then, that causes Mrs. Mallard to die of the "joy that kills," and the paradoxes are solved.  Her fear that she expresses in her prayer that "life might be long" now that she is free is lost--grieved--when Louise Mallard sees her husband alive.  This loss of freedom is what kills her.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is an immediate sadness that descends upon Louise when she hears about her husband's death.  This sadness is, in part, socially dictated.  She is supposed to feel sad, supposed to mourn, and supposed to feel as if her life has come to an end.  These are the experiences that she undergoes upon first hearing of her husband's death.  It is when she leaves and goes upstairs and sits alone when she begins to see another dimension to this experience.  The loss of her husband, while sad to a great extent, is something that allows her to reclaim her voice.  Through the social conventions of marriage, the subjugation of Louise's identity has been something sanctioned by society and something that she never fully grasped until hearing of her husband's death.  Once she was able to conceive of a life outside of this social definition, Louise understood what it meant to have self identity and autonomy.  Being filled with a new sense of who she is, this becomes taken away when news of her husband's death turned out to be premature, causing her own death.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Louise Mallard (at that point we do not know her first name, though) hears of the "death" of her husband, she has an immediate and violent reaction.  She experiences tremendous grief and she experiences it right away.  The narrator says that she is not shocked like some women -- she understands right away what has happened and is devastated at first.

By the time her husband comes home, she is devastated to see him -- so much so that she dies of sadness.  In the space of the past hour, she has figured out that she can now be free for the first time in her life.  When she finds out that this is not true, she cannot handle it and dies.

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