What is the theme of "The Story of an Hour"?

One of the most important themes of “The Story of an Hour” is how female selfhood is stifled by patriarchal society. There are so many things that Mrs. Mallard wants to do with her life but can't because she's a married woman. It's only when she thinks that her husband is dead that her true self as a woman is finally able to present itself.

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"The Story of an Hour" is specifically about the ways in which marriage constrained nineteenth-century women from living life as they wished. Marriage was not an equal partnership but an arrangement in which, more often than not, the man was the one in charge.

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"The Story of an Hour" is specifically about the ways in which marriage constrained nineteenth-century women from living life as they wished. Marriage was not an equal partnership but an arrangement in which, more often than not, the man was the one in charge.

The most obvious way to show this would have been to make Louise's husband out to be a tyrannical ogre figure, but Chopin is much more clever and realistic in her treatment of him. He is described as pretty normal and a decent fellow who never intended to hurt his wife. He simply assumes, as all of society did in the Victorian era, that women are meant to serve men within a marriage and have no life of their own outside the domestic sphere. Even Louise has some affection for him, which Chopin wryly alludes to: "She did love him. Sometimes." However, this is not enough for Louise, and Chopin seems to suggest it should not be for women in general.

Louise has no identity aside from "wife" until she believes her husband has been killed. With him no longer there, she realizes she can do whatever she wishes without having to run all her plans by a husband. She starts to feel an intense connection with the natural world outside her window, examining the birds in particular, evoking the notion that Louise is a bird about to be free of its cage.

Chopin hammers in the idea of marriage as existential imprisonment for women by having the story end with Louise realizing her husband survived the accident and subsequently dying from shock. Now that Louise has known true joy, having it revoked so suddenly not only triggers her heart trouble, it spiritually destroys her.

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One of the themes in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is freedom. The news of the sudden death of her husband, Brently Mallard, is given to Mrs. Mallard as gently as is possible by her sister Josephine and her husband's friend, Richards. The information is delivered in this manner because Mrs. Mallard is known to have a heart condition that is sensitive to shocking news. On receiving the news, Mrs. Mallard weeps. She is grief-stricken.

Later, after calming down a little, she retires to her room. It is while sitting in her room that she realizes the freedom that the death of her husband would bring her way. The thought possesses her so much that the words “free, free, free” escape her lips. She is excited by the thought of the new independence she will have, for with these thoughts, “her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warms and relaxes every inch of her body.”

She understands that her joy for her newfound freedom and independence does not mean that she hated her husband. What she hated was to live a life in which her will was constantly bent by another person. She would, from then on, live for herself. She is thrilled by the power that lies in being in control of one’s life without the interference of a spouse. She thinks of the many springs and summers yet to come that she would enjoy alone, doing whatever she wanted to do. When Brently walks into the house at the end of the story, he unknowingly tears this freedom from his wife.

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Like so many other women of her time, Mrs. Louise Mallard is seen by society not as an individual in her own right, but as an appendage to her husband. In this traditionally patriarchal society, female individuality is stifled, suppressed, and actively discouraged.

In the late nineteenth century, women were not supposed to be free spirits or allowed to go out into the world and do their own thing. On the contrary, they were expected to stay at home, raise the children, and cater to the needs of their husbands. Though Louise's husband is a good man, whom she claims to love, the Mallards' marriage is based on the same repressive dynamic that operates in so many others at this time.

Yet Louise is profoundly unhappy with all this. Deep down, she yearns to be an emancipated, independent woman capable of living her own life the way she, and not her husband, sees fit. But so long as she's married, she will never have the opportunity to fulfill her dreams.

That's why Louise is so overjoyed when she is informed—incorrectly, as it turns out—that her husband has been killed in a tragic accident. All of a sudden, she can see light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The end of her marriage means the beginning of a new and exciting life that is full of promise.

It says a lot about the nature of marriage in a patriarchal society that a woman like Louise can only really achieve liberation if her husband dies. And it is supremely ironic that the achievement of female emancipation in such a society is ultimately dependent on men, whether they live or die.

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