The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

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What does Josephine & Richards represent in "The Story of an Hour"?

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Josephine represents a woman living the kind of life that Kate Chopin believed to be oppressive and self-negating.  When Louise is spending time alone in her room considering how her life will now be filled with independence and self-fulfillment, Josephine "is kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission."  Josephine's posture of submission is symbolic and contrasts with Louise's triumph when she emerges from the bedroom carrying "herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory."

Richards is representative of a traditional male role in the nineteenth century. He takes charge of the situation at the Mallard home in Brently's absence, confirming the news of the rail accident and standing nearby as Josephine gently breaks the news to her sister.  At the end of the story when Louise clasps her sister's waist and descends the stairs to symbolically claim her place in the world, "Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom," as if to block her entrance and curtail her newfound freedom. In a final, protective move, Richards tries to intercept Louise before she catches sight of her husband's return.

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In Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" Josephine (Mrs. Mallard's sister) and Richards (a friend of Mr. Mallard's) represent two typical stereotypes regarding gender.

Josephine tells her sister about her husband's death in "in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing." This shows the typical female reaction to both death (an overly emotional time) and the hint that something else may be of concern (many sisters have very close relationships-Josephine probably knows about Mrs. Mallard's concerns about her own life).

On the other hand, Richards made sure to:

the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

This indirect characterization shows the procedural mind of the man. A woman, like Josephine would have probably not taken the time to check the message twice. Richards is calculating and wants to make sure he knows everything before giving Mrs. Mallard the news.

This being said, Josephine seems to represent one side of Mrs. Mallard: the emotional side; whereas, Richards seems to represent the analyzing side. Readers see the transformation of Mrs. Mallard in her bedroom. She, for purpose only, seems to 'turn male'- is able to detach emotion and look at the bigger picture.

In the end, her female self returns and the emotion kills her.

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