In the the short story "The Story of an Hour " Kate Chopin.
- How does the main character use language to convey her feelings and attitudes?
- Do you believe Mr. Mallard treated his wife poorly. Why or why not?
- How does limitation help to convey the author's ideas and feelings in the story?
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In order to respond in a more coherent manner, the 2nd question will be answered first and then Numbers 1 and 3.
2. In considering the treatment of Mr. Mallard towards his wife, the social setting must be considered.
This story takes place during the Victorian Age in which the feme covert laws existed. Under a patriarchal system, a married woman's legal rights were subsumed under the husband's; her property and money all belong to the husband. This legal system, thus, allowed the wife little freedom socially or legally.
So, in this patriarchal setting, Mrs. Mallard is certainly repressed and given little freedom and choice. While Bently Mallard may be a kind man--"She knew she would weep ...when she saw the kind, tender hands"--but as a male of his society, he certainly does not consider his wife's feelings or give her much independence. And, the reader's awareness of this milieu in which Mrs. Mallard dwells, provides the reader a better understanding of her words and actions subsequent to learning of the untimely death of her husband.
1. After she learns of her husband's supposed death, Mrs. Mallard weeps with "wild abandonment in her sister's arms." Afterwards, she goes alone to her room, refuses to let anyone accompany her. Once there, she collapses in an armchair, exhausted physically and spiritually. With her head thrown back against the chair, she sits quietly until "a sob came into her throat and shook her." Sensing that some new sensation is coming to her, Mrs. Mallard waits; finally, a whispered word escapes her lips, "free! free! free!" This idea she repeats, "Free! Body and soul free!" because she understands that her property is hers again and she can go out when she pleases.
When Josephine taps at the door, calling her name, Louise Mallard dismisses her because she is enjoying her freedom as symbolized by the room's open window. At last Louise rises and thinks of the future as she opens the door; she carries herself with great pride, considering how she will now spend her days, released from feme covert because feme sole (alone, single) can own property.
3. The limitation of length in this short story places much emphasis upon the single idea that is conveyed: Louise Mallard has been in an oppressive marriage; she is now freed, but only for a brief moment. Now, she must return to her existing status as wife of Bently Mallard, and endure even more the confinement of her repressive marriage.
Also, the limitation of language with Louise Mallard uttering only the word free focuses the entire narrative upon this concept of freedom. With this as the controlling idea, Mrs. Mallard has become a prisoner in her own home, repressed. For a brief moment she has believed that she could have freedom, but after her husband's unexpected return, this freedom is irrevocably lost to her.
In addition, the limitation of language allows the bedroom scene to be expressed by the open window and the Spring weather outside--the "delicious breath of rain," "[T]he notes of a distant song...and countless sparrows ...twittering in the eaves"--which symbolizes rebirth and renewal.
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