It is clear from the story that the reader is meant to feel tremendous sympathy towards Mrs Mallard as she hears that her husband dies and then is able to contemplate what her life will be like as she lives it as a widow, free of any marital responsibility and pressure to do what she does not want to do. The key feeling, after the initial shock has ended, that Mrs Mallard experiences is relief and joy, as the following quote explores:
Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. 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.
Although the text makes it clear that she did not hate her husband and he did not mistreat her, it does point out how marriage restricts freedom and the ability of a person to express themselves. Mrs Mallard, now that she is free of these restrictions, is able to entertain thoughts of days that would be purely "her own." The contrast in her feelings is shown through the different feelings she has towards the idea that her "life might be long." Now that her husband is dead, this is an incredibly attractive prospect. All this serves to make the shock of her final death when it turns out that her husband is alive the more profound. The reader is definitely meant to feel sorry for her, as she has freedom dangled in front of her and then cruelly snatched away, resulting in her death.