What is the main conflict in "The Story of an Hour"?

The main conflict in "The Story of an Hour" is a combination of person versus self and person versus society. After Louise Mallard is told that her husband has died, she experiences an epiphany amid her turbulent emotions. In her widowhood, Louise Mallard will be able to enjoy true personal agency for the first time in her life. Thus, her defining struggle is one against the sexist and chauvinistic society she inhabits.

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The main conflict in “The Story of an Hour” is that between Louise Mallard, the protagonist, and her society. The story was written in the 1890s, and context clues would suggest that it takes place during this same era. In the 1890s, women in the United States had few rights. When they married, their identities became, in a manner of speaking, legally covered by their husbands’ identities, and any property they owned prior to the marriage became their husbands’. Women could not legally vote, as it was assumed that a woman had no need to vote because either her father or her husband would vote for the household.

Despite this, it is not Brently Mallard, Louise’s reportedly dead husband, who poses as her antagonist throughout the story. When Louise reflects on his life, she thinks of his “kind, tender hands” and how he “never looked save with love upon her.” This means that he only ever looked at her with love. Instead, it seems to be the restrictions and the repression of her individual identity imposed by the marriage state that upset Louise so much. Brently’s legal right to make decisions for her—and her lack of legal rights to act independently of him, no matter how loving he was—antagonize her. This is what makes society the antagonist in this story and the conflict between Louise Mallard and her society the main conflict.

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I would say this story serves as an example of person vs. society (though in this context, one might also see elements of person vs. self).

"The Story of an Hour" opens with Louise Mallard being alerted to the news of her husband's death (news that will be shown to be false at the end of story). After hearing this news, she falls into grief and retreats into her room. As the story continues, it follows the evolution of Louise Mallard's emotions in the aftermath of this moment. In this, it certainly contains a strong element of person vs. self (and should be viewed in such a lens).

At the same time, however, this story ultimately centers around an epiphany on Mrs. Mallard's part that stems from a far deeper struggle against the society in which she resides. It is this epiphany that ultimately empowers her, giving rise to what Kate Chopin refers to, within the story itself, as "a monstrous joy." Ultimately, widowhood means the realization of personal agency. For the first time, Louise Mallard belongs to herself.

Thus, her husband's death has set her free. Note, however, that she does not seem to harbor any particular resentment to her husband himself. Indeed, consider how Kate Chopin writes the following about him:

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, then, is not a story shaped by person vs. person conflict. Rather, her problem is the sexist and chauvinistic foundations that lie within the society she inhabits. It is these assumptions and expectations that she is struggling to overcome.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In “The Story of an Hour,” Louise Mallard is engaged in a conflict with the values of the patriarchal society in which she lives. Those values dictate that Louise, as a married woman, is there to cater to the needs of her family. In relation to her husband, this means putting his needs first every time. As a highly intelligent woman with a heightened aesthetic appreciation of the world around her, Louise must find such restrictions especially difficult to handle.

One can only imagine, then, how elated she is at the prospect of freedom when she is informed of her husband's death. All of a sudden, whole new vistas of opportunity open up to Louise, allowing her to think about leading a life of her own for the first time in years.

Life for women as a whole is difficult in Louise's society, but as a widow, she will at least have far greater freedom than she would if she had remained married. Widowhood is about the only realistic way that Louise can possibly prevail in the never-ending conflict with patriarchal society and its repressive values.

It is no wonder, then, that she expresses such elation at the prospect of entering a new chapter in her life without her husband—who, despite his fundamental decency, still represented an intensely repressive social system.

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"The Story of an Hour" is very much a story about Louise Mallard and her internal life. As such, the key conflict in the story is a conflict between Louise and her own feelings (internal conflict) but also informed by the society in which she lives (an external pressure). So, the key conflict would seem to be between Louise Mallard and the social pressures which have made her unable to properly understand her own feelings.

At the beginning of the story, it is noted that Louise has a heart condition and, as such, she is informed very gently of the supposed death of her husband. It is imagined that she will be devastated by this loss, and indeed she "wept" at first. However, as the story progresses, Chopin reveals the war that is going on within Louise as she comes to realize what "subtle" thing is happening to her. She recognizes that she is now "free," and, having realized this, cannot stop whispering it to herself. "Body and soul," she is now her own person, a woman who is not defined by a man.
The conflict is certainly not between Louise and her husband as a person. On the contrary, when she thinks of his "kind, tender hands" and his loving face, she does feel sadness. However, she can now recognize that although this moment may be "bitter," she is being offered something far more sweet to follow. She is now being offered a life which will "belong to her absolutely," and having realized this, she cannot retreat from it.
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Louise Mallard's primary conflict concerns her difficult marriage, which involves her balancing society's oppressive standards as a wife and her love for Brently. Louise Mallard genuinely loves Brently but struggles to uphold her societal duties and live up to expectations by embracing her role as a submissive housewife. As a lowly housewife, Louise Mallard lacks personal agency and must passively submit to the will of her husband. Although Louise loves Brently, she is unfulfilled with her role and desires to experience autonomy. Louise's internal conflict is emphasized shortly after she receives the news that Brently died in a train accident. Initially, Louise breaks down and weeps when she learns that her beloved husband is dead. Louise's tears emphasize her love for Brently, and her initial reaction is genuine and sincere.
Once Louise enters the upstairs room and contemplates her current situation, she acknowledges the oppressive, confining nature of institutional marriage. Chopin writes,
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. There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself.
Louise recognizes that the outcome of her husband's death is her personal freedom, which is a joyful, thrilling experience. Although Louise brims with confidence and hope, her internal conflict arises when she once again considers the death of her husband. Chopin writes,
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!
Louise Mallard's internal conflict concerns her newfound appreciation for her independent future and the tragic loss of her beloved husband. Despite her love for Brently, Louise looks forward to the future and prays that she will live a long, healthy life. Ironically, Louise discovers that Brently is still alive and realizes that her dream of experiencing freedom is ruined, which is too unbearable to comprehend and results in a fatal heart attack.
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The main conflict in Kate Chopin's "Story of an Hour" is the internal conflict Louise Mallard experiences as she struggles with the joyful thoughts of becoming an independent widow and the grief of losing her husband. The foundation of this conflict is rooted in Louise's inherent desire to experience independence while she is forced to fulfill her role as an oppressed, obedient housewife.

Louise Mallard is portrayed as a submissive housewife who is initially heartbroken by the news of her husband's tragic death. Louise responds by weeping with "wild abandonment" in her sister's arms before locking herself in her upstairs room, where she undergoes a dramatic transformation in private. As Louise stares out the window, she experiences a self-revelation when she contemplates her future as an independent woman, free from adhering to social expectations and rules. Here the narrator underscores Louise's internal conflict:

There would be no one to live for her 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.

Louise's conflicting feelings revolve around her marital expectations and her love for Brently. Although Louise acknowledges that she loves Brently and recognizes the grief attached to his death, she understands that she was primarily living to please him instead of embracing her freedom and satisfying herself. The thought of living for herself and embracing her independence fills Louise with a sense of optimism and hope:

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.

After experiencing the revelation of being free from her marital duties and bending to the will of her husband for the interminable future, Louise Mallard's dreams are shattered when Brently walks through the door, and she dies of shock.

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"The Story of an Hour” offers Louise Mallard as a woman who suffers from an internal conflict that pits her lack of fulfillment against love. Louise seems to be a happily married woman, but she experiences the institution of marriage as oppressive and confining. The affection that she feels for her husband, Brently, is offset by her understanding of the extent to which he controls her.

Louise’s condition is located within her heart, which the author presents as a physical malady that parallels the emotional and existential afflictions from which Louise suffers. When she learns that her husband has died in an accident, she is shaken by a “storm of grief” and weeps wildly. Trying to comfort her, Louise’s sister misunderstands the situation. Louise’s true reaction becomes clear when she is alone. She recalls how Brently’s face "had never looked save with love upon her." Although “physical exhaustion … haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul,” what she mostly thinks about is not her loss but her freedom. She is “free” not only from the social bonds of matrimony but also within her true inner self: “Free! Body and soul free!”

The fact that there is no possible resolution for her conflict is indicated by her death, which occurs after Brently appears and is very much alive. The shock that she is not, as she had thought, “free, free, free” proves unbearable.

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A literary element that is essential to the plot of a story, the "conflict" is the internal or external problem that is caused by an instigating situation, or the triggering event that moves the plot forward. The instigating event that causes the conflict of the main character is two-fold: first, that Louise Mallard's husband is presumed dead; the problem with this is that Louise also has a weak heart. Breaking the news to Mrs. Mallard will be an issue.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing.

Therefore, the first conflict is how to convey the news delicately. This conflict is external because it has nothing to do with the philosophical growth of the character itself; it is just something "from outside" that makes Louise suffer.

The internal conflict that comes as a result of the presumed death of Mr. Mallard presents itself as a complication to this conflict;is the self-revelation that Louise actually feels happy and free as a result of Brently Mallard's death. Far from experiencing pain, Louise feels

"Free! Body and soul free!"

This must have come as a shock to Louise, herself, and as a result of this, her heart begins to race, and palpitate in wild dreams of what her future life will be like. This in no way indicates that Louise hates, or does not love, Brently. She even says that she had "sometimes" loved him, and that he had been nothing but kind to her. However, marriage and the submission of her womanhood is something that she has wholeheartedly come to dislike. The idea of a life free of social expectations and rules has made her wild with excitement.

Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

The denouement of the story, which occurs when Brently Mallard enters the home after the reader realizes that the news of his death were premature and false, ends when Louise dies from the same conflicting condition that had been a problem in the story form the beginning.

Therefore, out of the internal and external conflicts that surface as a result of the triggering event it is the external conflict, the weak heart condition of Louise Mallard, the one which seems to be the most powerful. After all, if Mrs. Mallard had not a weak heart condition, would she have died at the end of the story? The internal conflict, which is the uncovering of her true feelings is more of a complication of the conflict, but nevertheless it is a problem to the story as well. Both come together as equally important.

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