The Story of an Hour Questions and Answers
by Kate Chopin

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

"The Story of an Hour" revolves around a combination of person vs. self and person vs. society. Ultimately, 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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Scott David eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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...

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mkcapen1 | Student

The conflict that I identify in the story is the oppression that Mrs. Mallard had experienced throughout her marriage.  She had not been as aware of it until she finally had the opportunity to sit back and look at what her life could be now that there is no husband to "bend her will."  She is able to look and see things in a new way, which is a freedom that she had not known before.  Instead of continuing to grieve, she starts to day dream about what will happen in her future and the new decisions that will be hers to make.   She will miss the man that was her husband but she looks forward to the freedom her future now holds. 

“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."

The conflict that the woman initially had was external because it was not she who was keeping herself repressed, but her circumstances.  In this manner the second conflict is between the woman and the restrictions society placed on her.