What does this story tell about assumptions concerning husbands and wives?
Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" stands as Chopin's statement to society that simply because a woman has found a husband and is married, it does not necessarily suggest that she is happy and content being a wife. As the reader sees the protagonist's thoughts as she realizes and understands that her husband has presumably died, the reader is shown how there was a distance in the marriage, as well as a sense of entrapment on the part of Mrs. Mallard. This is made clear as she sees the happy world outside her window, realizing her own happiness. Additionally, she is experiencing a newly-acquired sense of freedom, evident by her repetition of a single word: "free, free, free!" (Chopin). She goes on to show the reader, again through her thoughts, how she felt his will imposing on hers with a "blind persistence" (Chopin). This story was Kate Chopin's revelation to society that the assumed contentment on the part of a woman at being nothing more than a wife was in error; as seen in Mrs. Mallard, women longed to be more than just wives and to have a sense of freedom and control over their own lives.
There is an assumption that the institution of marriage brings with it love and devotion, and that these bonds are enough to fulfil women. However, Louise discovered that her love for freedom was greater than that which she held for her husband -
'And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!' (Chopin)
Louise feels compelled to hide her joy with the mask of grief. The irony of her death -brought upon by the 'shock' of her husband being found alive - is deep. Her passing is attributed to 'the joy that kills' but it is not the joy of reunion, it is the unassailable pressure of emotional constriction which stops her heart.