“The story of an hour” is a subtle tale of a repressive marriage. The news of the accidental death of Mr. Mallard, which comes at the beginning of the story, unleashes a storm of emotions in his wife Mrs. Mallard. She is shocked, terrified and joyous at the same time. The most powerful emotion that finally predominates in her is that of “monstrous joy.” The news of his death comes as an announcement of her liberation from a life of subjugation and repression. She realizes that now she is an independent woman and for the coming years “she would live for herself” only.
But at the end of the story, Mr. Mallard appears from the front door. He is very much alive and kicking except looking “a little travel-stained.” He hadn’t been at the scene of the railroad accident nor does have any information about it.
His arrival means denial of the glorious moments of independent life that she just had a glimpse of. It was as if somebody has snatched away from her hands the ‘elixir of life’ she was about to drink.
At one moment Mrs. Mallard is promised a life that would “belong to her absolutely,” something that she has always yearned for since her marriage and at the other, she is refused what had been granted to her an hour ago. All this ends like a cruel joke with her sensitivities.
Mrs. Mallard is already a heart patient. Moreover, as a woman who had been living an agonizing life, her sensibilities must have grown softer and tenderer. The outcome is obvious. The arrival of Mr. Mallard comes as a fact too shocking to be borne. Her heart is too fragile to forsake her just attained freedom and it gives up beating. She dies of heart attack.