What is the conflict in The Story of an Hour?I am not looking for an answer of 'internal' or 'external', just the main conflict. I also need an answer before January 21,2010

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James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the previous poster. The conflict in Kate Chopin's short story "The Story of an Hour" is entirely expressed through the thoughts of Mrs. Mallard -- the report of her husband's death makes her, perhaps for the first time, understand how she has been feeling all this time. That self-awareness -- that thing "too subtle and elusive to name" -- is achieved when she utters the words "free, free, free!" That Mrs. Mallard has indeed been dominated by men, as the previous poster, and by the rigid social conventions for women of her class at the turn of the century can be seen in how she is treated in the story. Her husband's friend is the first to hear and deliver the news of the accident and the one who tries to "screen" the husband from the wife's view. Her sister is the one who breaks the news to her and pleads to be allowed into her locked room. Everyone seems to act on her; she does almost nothing physical, on her own, in the story.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fundamental conflict in Chopin's work is the idea of what is supposed to be experienced as opposed to what is experienced.  Louise finds herself poised between these incommensurate ends when she is told of her husband's death.  The socially conditioned response is for her to mourn his passing, but the personal response which responds the essence of her conflict is the newly discovered freedom and sense of self that is now upon her.  This becomes a critical conflict within Louise.  While experiencing the loss of her husband provides one set of responses, the new definition of self which awaits gives her another set of responses.  This conflict between what social conditioning and personal experience represents a fundamental battle within Louise.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To me, the conflict in this story is between Mrs. Louise Mallard and the society in which she lives.  Her desire to be an independent woman is in conflict with the society she lives in, which is dominated by men.

In the story, Mrs. Mallard finds out her husband is (supposedly) dead.  She discovers, as she thinks about it, that she really is happy that he is dead.  Now she will be able to do what she wants to do rather than having to go along with his desires.  When she finds out he is really alive, she dies of a heart attack.

So, she really wants to be independent, but her society will never let her be while she and her husband are both alive.

mkcapen1 | Student

The conflict that I identify in the story is the oppression that Mrs. Mallard had experienced throughout her marriage.  She had not been as aware of it until she finally had the opportunity to sit back and look at what her life could be now that there is no husband to "bend her will."  She is able to look and see things in a new way, which is a freedom that she had not known before.  Instead of continuing to grieve, she starts to day dream about what will happen in her future and the new decisions that will be hers to make.   She will miss the man that was her husband but she looks forward to the freedom her future now holds. 

“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 conflict that the woman initially had was external because it was not she who was keeping herself repressed, but her circumstances.  In this manner the second conflict is between the woman and the restrictions society placed on her.


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The Story of an Hour

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