How does Mrs. Mallard’s death in the conclusion contribute to the story’s overall meaning? Cite evidence in your answer.
Kate Chopin’s short story “The Story of an Hour” argues the importance of self-discovery and personal freedom. In the story, Mrs. Louise Mallard learns that her husband has died in a train accident. Instead of reacting in an expected way, tears of sadness over her loss, she retreats to her room and begins to imagine the new world that waits for her without him.
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.
In her room, she sits and looks out the window. As she calms down, she sees the blue sky beyond the storm clouds, a symbol of the freedom waiting for her now that her husband is gone. In fact, as her “storm of grief” passes her the realization that she is “free, free, free!” escapes her as she talks to herself about her new life. This recognition gives her power as for the first time she looks at her hands and considers all that she can do with them. She continues to describe this new world, a long and happy life, where she would be in charge of her own life and able to make decisions for herself.
There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.
Her death at the end comes suddenly. In the hour since learning of her husband’s death she’s realized that though she loved her husband, her life was not her own. When she comes downstairs, “unwittingly like a goddess of Victory,” she had accepted his death and had already begun to move on. Seeing her husband come through the front door, alive and well, killed all of her hopes and dreams for the future. Unable to handle the idea of losing her newfound freedom, she dies.
Much like her life with Brently Mallard, even her death is misunderstood. Having watched her transformation, the reader knows that her death comes after her self-discovery. Threatened with having to put aside her own desires for her husband is too much for her. Even the doctor misdiagnoses her death. He believes that she was so happy to see her husband alive that her heart gave out: “When the doctors came, they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.”
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