Though the point of view in this story is that of a woman, is Chopin blaming men for what is wrong with marriage?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chopin's story is fairly complex enough that it does not assign quick blame for the intricacies of marriage and emotional nuances between men and women, husbands and wives.  I think that Chopin is suggesting that there is some fundamental element of culpability that men own if they are conditioned to embracing a traditionalist notion of women's places in marriage.  When Louise goes to her room, she begins to reflect about all of the things that she is now able to do with her husband effectively out of the picture.  Ordering food, being able to think about herself, and the ability to construct a "new spring life" are all elements that traditional notion of marriage, one advocated by men for men, have effectively silenced.  In this, Chopin is suggesting that the socially accepted institution of marriage does hold some blame for the silencing of women. 

I think that Louise's characterization brings out another element in this construction of blame, as well.  Louise realizes all of the things that she could not do as a result of her marriage with Brently.  It is not because he was a bad man or an abusive one, but rather simply because of the state of their marriage as a traditional one.  It seems as if Louise's powers of reflection and perception were dulled as a result of this.  I think that Chopin is suggesting that while the socially constructed vision of marriage does hold some responsibility for what is wrong with it, women need to reflect and articulate their own conditions in marriage in order for it to be changed.  I think that Chopin is progressive enough to argue that if marriage is to change in order to be more inclusive, then women have to advocate and be a part of that.  To wait for men to change a system where they are clearly benefiting is silly and also reduces the women's role, the very same criticism that we see Louise offer through her characterization in the short story.  In this, I think that Chopin is suggesting that women reflect, think, and advocate for their own well beings.  The only way that more women will be able to experience a joy that does not kill is by speaking and articulating it.  Through this, I think that Chopin's short story is a statement to both men and women on how marriage needs both genders to offer change to it.

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The Story of an Hour

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