The very title of Kate Chopin's points to the short-lived emergence of selfhood in the life of a Victorian woman as within this sixty-minute period there is a brief portrait of a woman's reaction to the possiblity of freedom.
1. In the exposition of the story, the reportorial voice of the narrator refers to the main character simply as "Mrs. Mallard," suggesting that the woman's identity is tied inextricably to that of her husband. And, it is not until Mrs. Mallard is alone that the character is alluded to as "she" and eventually as Louise.
2. Mrs. Mallard is patronized as she is "afflicted with a heart trouble" and great care is taken to gently break the news of her husband's death. That Mrs. Mallard lives within a patriarchal society is evinced by the belittling attitude toward her condition that no one has really investigated, but simply dismissed as some trouble with her heart.
3. That Louise Mallard should feel free only after confirmation of her husband's death indicates the repression under which she has lived. Moreover, this realization comes to her with trepidation as she has been so repressed that now she is afraid of the future,
There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name....When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightl parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: 'free, free, free!'
4. When her sister-in-law Josephine insists upon being let in, an action symbolic of the re-entrance of the restrictive role of women in the 1800s, Louise repels her, "Go away...." and in her fancy Louise "breathed a quick prayer that life might be long" as she emerges "like a goddes of Victory." Truly Louise Mallard has experienced an emergence of selfhood. Sadly, however, it is too late for her, as she dies of "heart disease" when her husband enters the hallway.