The Story Of An Hour Conflict

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


The key conflict in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin is between Louise Mallard and the society in which she lives, which expects her to feel enormous sorrow at her husband's death. Instead, she feels an internal tumult at the recognition that she is now "free, free, free!" without the burden of patriarchy controlling her behavior.

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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.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 26, 2021
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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.
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 26, 2021
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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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