What is the apparent attitude of the narrator toward the institution of marriage, and what elements of tone make this apparent?
The narrator gives some insight into their attitude towards marriage through the cynical view which Louisa Mallard privately displays after receiving the news of her husband’s death. She is excited at the prospect of being a free woman-
There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.
The reader is told that Mr Mallard was not a violent husband, but her confinement is more of a spiritual one.
There is a tone of grim irony in that the freedom Mrs. Mallard desires can only be brought about by death. She considers the brightness of her unfettered future-
She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.
When her husband is revealed to be alive, the only avenue to freedom is then Louisa’s death. The ‘joy that kills’ is implied by the narrator to be the fatal desire for liberty in an age when women were the property of their fathers then their husbands. Louisa’s death implies that there is no earthly escape from such confinement.