In "The Story of an Hour" what is the apparent attitude of the narrator toward the institution of marriage?

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The narrator of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" tells the story of Mrs. Mallard in a detached tone, and this matter-of-fact approach to storytelling actually reveals very little about the narrator's own attitude toward marriage.

This detachment on the part of the narrator is more...

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The narrator of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" tells the story of Mrs. Mallard in a detached tone, and this matter-of-fact approach to storytelling actually reveals very little about the narrator's own attitude toward marriage.

This detachment on the part of the narrator is more artistically useful than a more suggestive tone that does demonstrate an emotional attachment to the notion of marriage; the narrator's emotional distance allows the reader to experience shock at the unexpected realization that Mrs. Mallard was actually happy and relieved to hear the news of her husband's death.

Though the narrator's attitude toward marriage is unclear, a reader can make a thoughtful argument around the attitude of the author, Kate Chopin, toward marriage. By employing a distant and detached narrator to tell a shocking story about marriage, the author reveals her own dark and melancholy view of marriage from the point of view of a wife. The subtlety of this approach heightens the dramatic goings-on inside Mrs. Mallard; to a casual observer, Mrs. Mallard's marriage was perfectly fine, but the omniscient narrator reveals that the marriage felt like a prison to Mrs. Mallard, so much so that the false news of her new status as a widow elates her. The ironic ending to the story suggests that Mrs. Mallard is better off dead than married, a conclusion that confirms any suspicions on the part of the reader that the author's view of marriage is indeed extremely negative.

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The apparent attitude toward marriage that the narrator presents in this story is not a positive attitude. The story begins with Mrs. Mallard being told that her husband has been killed in a tragic accident. She retires to her room to presumably weep and mourn the loss of her husband; however, it doesn't take long before she begins to rejoice in the newfound freedom that being single once again is going to give her. Mrs. Mallard is thrilled and excited about the possible places she can now go and the things that she can now do.

She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

The above quote highlights her joy at her future being hers, not her husband's. The view expressed here is that marriage (at least for the woman) is an incredibly stifling environment, in which the woman and her thoughts and desires are secondary to what her husband wants. This presents the idea that marriage is an institution that is very controlling instead of being a partnership between two equals.

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Marriage is seen as an controlling institution which denies women the ability to voice their own autonomy.  This is seen in several instances in the short story.  The first would be Louise's initial reaction to news of her husband's death.  The narrator makes it fairly clear that Louise is supposed to mourn, as per social convention.  Pay attention to the tone and language used to describe this.  Even from the earliest stages of the narration, the idea is conveyed that while Mr. Mallard was not that bad of a guy as far as men goes, Louise is supposed to feel a certain way.  When Louise goes upstairs and is alone, she experiences quite a different reaction for she is now able to accept her own autonomy, her own freedom, and her own voice.  The narration swells as it enters her mind, indicating that marriage, the institution and practice of it, helped to keep these elements repressed or lulled into dormancy.

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Kate Chopin's narrator in her short story "The Story of an Hour" is an omniscient narrator that reveals and interprets Mrs. Mallard's thoughts.  She reveals these thoughts, as is accepted and expected according to the conventions of fiction writing.  You would want to think of this narrator as revealing, rather than giving, thoughts or attitudes.

As such, the narrator does not present an attitude toward marriage.  She simply reveals the actions, dialogue, and thoughts that form the plot.

For instance, the narrator writes:

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.  But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

The narrator here interprets the thoughts and feelings of Mrs. Mallard, but she is not expressing any attitude of her own.  At most, one might say that the narrator is sympathetic toward Mrs. Mallard.

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I think you would have to say that the narrator has a negative attitude towards the institution of marriage.  At least, the narrator gives to Mrs. Mallard some very negative thoughts about the institution.

According to the narrator, Mrs. Mallard sees marriage as something of a prison.  Even though she loves her husband, and even though he has never looked at her except with love (that is pretty amazing), she still is happy not to have to spend the rest of her life with him.

If these thoughts are consistent with the narrator's beliefs, then the narrator is very opposed to marriage as an institution.

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