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In "The Story of an Hour" by American writer Kate Chopin, Mrs. Mallard must be informed of the tragic death of her husband Brently Mallard in a railroad accident. The stages of grief that Mrs. Mallard experiences, upon receiving this terrible news from her sister and a family friend include:
Stage 2 – Pain & Guilt
In the third paragraph of the story it seems that Mrs. Mallard has bypassed Stage 1 – Shock & Denial. The author conveys that she “…did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance.” Mrs. Mallard has proceeded directly to the “pain” stage and she immediately weeps uncontrollably in her pain. Upon the cessation of this torrent of emotion and tears, she removes herself to her room. She experiences great fatigue from this outburst of tears.
Stage 3 – Anger & Bargaining
This is a unique short story. The anger that Mrs. Mallard experiences is more at herself. In fact, she names it more of a “fear” emotion. This is because, in her tears, she says these words to herself "free, free, free!" The implication here is that she believes she is now free to resume her life as she sees fit, with the death of her husband. She may very well experience great anger at herself for thinking this way. As the writer conveys, Mrs. Mallard now sees “…a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely.” However, now it is terrifying that she is thinking this way.
The subtle anger that she is experiencing is in the bitter reality that this man who loved her greatly is now dead. She must deal with this first before she can ponder a future that to her will be freer.
Stage 5 – The Upward Turn
As if time and circumstance are moving much too quickly in this short story, Mrs. Mallard is already contemplating an adjusted life - a new opportunity to pursue her dreams her way, without having to answer to anyone else. After saying the words “free, free, free!” her body is relaxing and she has a comfortable warmth now. She is accepting her situation already, while still trying to properly honour her husband in the deepest part of her being.
Stage 6 – Reconstruction & Working Through
Mrs. Mallard has begun the reconstruction process quite speedily, at least in her mind. The actions of reconstruction are bound to follow quite quickly because of her mindset as pertains to believing she is now free.
Stage 7 - Acceptance & Hope
Mrs. Mallard definitely is infused with acceptance and hope regarding her situation. She does have a love for her husband, although theirs was not, to her, a perfect marriage. She does, nonetheless, accept what has happened and foresees jubilant days ahead as a totally free woman.
These are all of the stages of grief that Mrs. Mallard experiences this day, as she receives the news of her husband’s death. However, he has not died. He was nowhere near the scene of the disaster. He walks through the door to see his wife, to comfort her that he was not killed. She drops dead of a heart attack. This is because she realizes her dream of freedom is gone. Therefore, her grief was unnecessary in light of this truth revealed.
Louise Mallard, might have been grieved by her "heart trouble." Of course, there is more than one kind of heart trouble: a. cardio-vascular; (b) romantic; (c) spiritual.
However, given the narrator's comments about Louise's lack of freedom, she was probably grieved over her miserable marriage, where she felt oppressed and manipulated. Her grief for Brently was real, but short-lived because of her sudden death.
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