In "The Story of an Hour," discuss Mrs. Mallard's conflict and how she deals it.

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The main conflict that Mrs. Louise Mallard experiences in the story is the conflict she feels between herself and her society.

The conflict she seems to have experienced with her husband, Brently, is the result of society's expectations for women and not due to some fault of his own. In...

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The main conflict that Mrs. Louise Mallard experiences in the story is the conflict she feels between herself and her society.

The conflict she seems to have experienced with her husband, Brently, is the result of society's expectations for women and not due to some fault of his own. In fact, she is compelled to acknowledge that "she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death," and she knows that Brently always looked at her with love in his face.

Brently, then, was not a bad husband or a bad man. Louise remembers that she did love him, if somewhat inconsistently, but, now, she thinks, "What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!" Perhaps she never even wanted to get married and only did so because of societal pressure.

During the era in which Louise and Brently live—the 1880s or 90s—married women in America really retained no legal identity. Their identities were covered by their husbands', so to speak, and husbands were legally entitled to make decisions for their wives: women could not vote, for example, but their husbands could. Any property a woman owned would become her husband's property once they married, and he would control that and any other assets she brought into the relationship.

So, what Louise chafes against is the married woman's role, not her husband personally, and she does try to "beat [her joy and relief] back with her will" at first. Soon, however, she begins to realize that her "Body and soul [are now] free!" and she cannot help but wish for a long life to live for herself now. She even carries herself like the "goddess of Victory," as she has won back her freedom, she thinks, by outliving her husband.

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Mrs. Mallard is presented with yet another conflict. On the one hand, she's mightily relieved to be unburdened of her husband, whom she wrongly thinks has just died in a tragic accident. On the other, she still has to maintain the outward appearance of the grieving widow. Inside she's dancing at the prospect of her newfound freedom, but she can't show it.

Mrs. Mallard lives at a time when it wasn't considered respectable for women in general, let alone widows, to behave in certain ways. At every turn, women's lives were hemmed-in and restricted by all manner of social conventions. It is just this kind of life from which Mrs. Mallard believes that she's escaped.

One of those conventions concerned how widows were supposed to behave after the deaths of their husbands. Everyone else automatically assumes that Mrs. Mallard has shut herself away in her room in order to grieve, but in actual fact it's because she doesn't want people to see how happy she is now that she has some freedom in her life for the very first time as an adult. Even if it turned out that her husband really had died, Mrs. Mallard would've had to emerge from her room at some point and play the grieving widow, and that would've presented a real challenge, to say the least.

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Mrs. Mallard has a couple of conflicts to handle in "The Story of an Hour."  Her first conflict is what to do as a newly-widowed woman in the late 19thC, and the second is what to do as a newly-free woman in the 19thC.

When she hears of Brently Mallard's death in the train wreck, she has what appears to be a normal woman's grief--we're told she cries in "wild abandonment," a completely understandable response from a woman who has lost not only her husband, presumably a loved one, but also the economic center of her universe.  We are on notice, of course, that she has a weak heart, and other characters in the story are obviously concerned about the effect of this news  and take pains to break it to her as gently as possible.

The second, and significantly more important, conflict arises after Mrs. Mallard goes upstairs and, perhaps partly prompted by all the life-affirming signs outside her window, she decides, after significant struggle to deny her reaction, that she likes the idea of her husband's death because she is "free, free, free" from the repression of the institution of marriage.  Part of her conflict resides in her description of her husband as kind and loving--he is clearly not a problem in this marriage.  The problem is marriage itself, which limits her overriding drive to be self-assertive.

Mrs. Mallard clearly, at first, feels somewhat guilty about her sense of freedom when she envisions all the years of freedom ahead of her, but, just as clearly, she embraces this vision of freedom or, perhaps more accurately, the lack of repression.  The difference between what she should be feeling and what she is actually feeling is, perhaps, the real conflict in this story.

At the end, we know how she has resolved this conflict.  She is so transported by the idea of freedom, of all the years ahead being hers alone, that when Brently Mallard walks through the door, Mrs. Mallard drops dead, not from overjoy, of course, but from the realization that she has nothing to look forward to except continued repression.  She has resolved this critical conflict by checking out entirely, a very effective way of dealing with perpetual unhappiness.

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