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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin
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In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, how does Mrs. Mallard feel about life without her husband?

As harsh as it sounds, Mrs. Mallard in "The Story of an Hour" looks forward to a life without her husband. She is relieved to be able to live for herself, instead of according to the will of someone else, and she now hopes that her life will be long. Only yesterday did she think “with a shudder” that she might live a long time. Now, she anticipates the years of independence that seem to lay ahead.

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To put it bluntly, Mrs. Mallard finds the idea of life without her husband liberating. While her initial reaction to his death is to burst into tears, the feeling of wanting to cry quickly gives way to an overwhelming realization that she is now free.

While she knows that there will still be moments of grief on the road ahead, such as when she sees her late husband in his coffin, she can already see the many years ahead that are hers to live as she wishes. While this does not in any way imply that Brently was anything other than a loving husband, she relishes the thought of being able to live life on her own terms. She feels excited about a life with no one to answer to but herself. In fact, she feels so intoxicated by her newfound freedom that she instructs her concerned sister, Josephine, to leave her alone.

Her feelings about life without her husband become very apparent when she recalls thinking with horror, only the day before, about the prospect of living a long life. Now, she finds herself praying for a long life in which to enjoy her newfound freedom. Sadly, this was not to be.

Mrs. Mallard’s sudden death from heart disease at the very moment she discovers that the announcement of her husband’s death had been a mistake cannot be a coincidence. Her weak heart proved unable to tolerate the feelings that came with having to readjust to life as a dutifully married woman in a society that subjugated women.

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Mrs. Louise Mallard is relieved that she will get to live the rest of her life without her husband, Brently, but she also feels somewhat guilty about this feeling of relief. When describing her appearance, the narrator says that the lines on Mrs. Mallard’s face “bespoke repression and even a certain strength.” By what has she been repressed? She thinks of how she will “weep again” when she sees her husband’s “kind, tender hands folded in death,” and she recalls his face as one that “never looked save with love upon her.” Brently Mallard seems to have been a kind and loving husband to her, not a monster who might deserve her scorn.

However, the institution of marriage during the era in which the story takes place, the late 1800s, was not so kind to women, due to the social and legal inequality of the sexes. Mrs. Mallard, freed from the repressive institution of marriage, feels now that there “would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself.” She will get to make her own decisions, walk her own path, without having to compromise or submit to the will, however kind and well-meaning, of another person.

In this way, then, she is “free, free, free!” of the limitations imposed on women by society, namely that they become dutiful wives and mothers who can make relatively few decisions independently or as individuals. Louise now recognizes that the “possession of self-assertion” is the most important thing to her, more important than love or anything else society tells her she should want most.

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Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" portrays an unusual set of circumstances. The main character Louise Mallard has a heart problem. She has to be careful in whatever that she does.

On this day, Louise has been told by an acquaintance that her husband Brently has been killed in an accident. Of course, she is distraught about the news of his death. After being consoled by her sister, Louise goes to her room to compose herself.

As she sits in her chair, Louise feels something coming up inside of her. Until now, Louise has been repressed, watched, and kept in control for her health's sake. Slowly, she began to realize what the feeling was. Louise began to whisper the words, "free, free, free..." Now she would be free not only physically but emotionally as well.

What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

There would be no one to tell her what to do. She could go and do as she pleased. Realizing that she would still grieve for her dead husband, she also knew that within her being she felt happiness for the years of freedom that she could foresee.

Louise had loved her husband sometimes. He had always been nice to her, and she thought that he loved her. Yet, he had made her do things that she did not want to do. She resented him for imposing his will on her.

After all, a person does not stop loving her husband for little reasons. Either Mr. Mallard was doing something really bad occasionally to Louise, or she was not fair in her judgment of him. This feeling of who she is and who she can be is by far the "strongest" she has ever felt.

Just the day before, she felt that her life would always be the way he wanted it to be. But now, her days would be her own.

Her sister waited for her outside her door. Arm in arm, they go down the stairs together. The door opens and in walks Louise's husband alive and well.

Louise fell to the floor and instantly was dead. The doctors said that she died from the "joy that kills." However, the reader knows the truth.

It was not only the shock of her seeing her husband alive, her heart problem, and probably...the loss of the freedom that she so desired from her married life.

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