illustration of a woman in a dress standing as if she were in shock

The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

Start Free Trial

What do we learn about Louise's husband in The Story of an Hour?

Quick answer:

The way in which the story is told and Louise's thoughts about her husband justify her response to his death. We have only a few details about him, and they are positive; this makes it easier for our judgment of Louise to be mitigated by sympathy for her. She is not a villainess because she felt sad for a moment when she learned that her husband was dead; she is a villainess because she rejoices in his death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

We learn that Louise's husband was kind, and that he loved her very much.  After her initial tearful outburst, Louise calms down, but "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."  This is perhaps the most important and only real, specific detail we learn about her husband.  Most of the other thoughts Louise has have more to do with disliking the institution of marriage in general rather than her husband himself.  For example, she thinks

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself.  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.  A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet, this is precisely the power that marriage in this era granted to the husband.  The Victorian wife really has no legal identity, as her husband's identity "covers" hers; he would have the legal authority to make decisions on her behalf—she could not even vote in elections, which was true of all women.  

Therefore, it seems as though Louise does feel somewhat sad that her husband has died tragically, but—and more importantly—her main impulse is to rejoice that she will now have "all sorts of days that would be her own." She wishes that life will be long when, only days before, such a thought had made her shudder.  Brently has justified Louise's response to his death, simply because he was her husband.  That is, he wasn't abusive or cruel; he most likely simply exercised his legal right to govern her.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

We learn little about Louise's husband Brently. We learn that she experienced him bending her to his will, and that she admits he had a kind intent when he reshaped her in this way. Because this story focus on Louise and what she's experienced of and from life, that shapes our understanding of and exposure to Brently.

Personally, I think that's intentional. I think Chopin was showing him as all men of the period, rather than anything especially abusive as an individual.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial