Explain the conflicts involving Mrs. Mallard in "The Story of an Hour"
1. Between her marriage and freedom
2. Between her reaction to the news and to her feelings about her husband's death
3. Between seeing her husband walk in the door and her feelings prior to seeing him alive
An upper class woman during the Gilded Age, Mrs. Louise Mallard is a repressed wife, whose property belongs to her husband Bently under the feme covert laws. When she is told that Mr. Mallard has been killed in a train wreck, Mrs. Mallard, weeps at once with "wild abandonment" as her sister holds her. However, she discovers a freedom which she has not had and feels empowered until she sees her husband walk through the door; then, she seemingly falls dead "of heart disease--of joy that kills." All this occurs within an hour.
1. Conflict between Mrs. Mallard's marriage and her freedom.
After Mrs. Mallard learns of the reported death of Mr. Mallard, she weeps, but insists upon climbing to her bedroom by herself. Once there, she sits motionless as she tries to comprehend this dramatic change in her life.
There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully.
Finally, she embraces this "something" and says repeatedly under her breath: "free, free, free!" Now, she can live for herself; there will be "no powerful will bending hers." As a feme sole, Louise Mallard's money will return to her and she can live independently.
2. Conflict between the news of her husband's death and her feelings about his loss.
Mrs. Mallard cries when she hears of her husband's death and yet she realizes it is the end of her social and private repression as she repeats the word free. She knows that she will grieve when she sees his corpse, his face "that had never looked save with love upon her." However, she cannot escape the feeling of freedom from repression as she awakens to the idea that she can be her own person now.
3. Conflict between Louise's feelings prior to seeing her husband alive and seeing her husband walk in the door.
Alone in her room, Mrs. Mallard considers all the advantages she will have as a widow because the years "will belong to her"; upon further reflection, Louise Mallard recognizes this new assertion of self as the "strongest impulse of her being"; consequently, when she steps out of her room, Louise carries herself "like a goddess of Victory." She descends the stairs with her sister as her husband's friend Richard waits beneath. However, at that moment, the front door opens and Brently Mallard enters his house. This unexpected appearance of the man she has believed dead shocks Mrs. Mallard. It also crushes all her hopes of a new, independent life and freedom. She dies "of heart disease." That is, her heart is so strained by her loss of freedom and independence that it kills her.