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

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While you won't find a "thesis" as such in a piece of short fiction as you would in an argument-based essay, you can think of the story's "thesis" as its main idea, theme, or message. In the case of "The Story of an Hour ," Chopin presents a...

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While you won't find a "thesis" as such in a piece of short fiction as you would in an argument-based essay, you can think of the story's "thesis" as its main idea, theme, or message. In the case of "The Story of an Hour," Chopin presents a married woman who has just learned that her husband died in a train accident. While she reacts by weeping at first, once she is alone with her thoughts, Mrs. Mallard realizes that she feels free, rather than burdened, as a result of her husband's death. She knows she will mourn him, will cry at his funeral, and will remember his good qualities. However, even in a relatively happy marriage, the wife's will is subject to that of her husband. Louise Mallard looks out of her window and is drawn to new life in the form of flowers blooming and birds chirping. She feels as though her life, as an individual and not as a wife, is just beginning.

The irony of the story is that, as soon as Louise embraces her new liberty and vows to live only for herself, her husband returns. He was not on the train after all, and the people who see Louise pass out and die upon his return assume she has died of "the joy that kills." In fact, Louise's disappointment at again being subject to another's will and shock at the sudden loss of her freedom more likely have caused her heart attack.

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The thesis or point of "The Story of an Hour" is that even a good marriage, such as the one Mrs. Mallard had, represses and imprisons a woman. Louise only starts to become free, to expand, and to be herself when, for one brief hour, she believes she is widowed.

In the story, Louise Mallard learns her husband has been killed in a train accident. When she gets away from the women who have gathered to support her (representations of social convention), she moves from mourning to joy as she realizes she is finally free to be herself and organize her life as she would like it to be. This newfound sense of power and liberation is so enticing that Louise dies of a heart attack when she finds out her husband is still alive. She would, it seems, rather be dead that stuffed back in the prison cage of marriage.

The story is a sharp critique of the marriage institution as it was conceived in Chopin's time, in which a woman was supposed to sacrifice her needs and desires to support the needs and desires of her husband. The story emphasizes that Louise was not mistreated and did not at all dislike her husband but that the restraints of the institution of marriage itself stifled her and kept her from reaching her full potential.

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Do you mean to ask how someone might compose a thesis statement about this story? A good thesis statement should make a claim about the story, a statement with which someone might argue. For example, one might say that, though her husband was loving, Louise Mallard was not happy in her marriage because it restricted her rights and abilities. The narrator says, for example, that "She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength." Here, we learn that Louise has been "repressed" in some way and that it has added some lines to her face and, perhaps, enabled her to develop a kind of strength to endure that repression. Further, the narrator seems to give voice to Louise's thoughts when they say,

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, believing her husband to be dead, reflects on love and how it counts for so little when compared to one's ability to assert oneself. Independence is too steep a price to pay for something less valuable, like love. To this same end, she thinks,

There would be no one to live for 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. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

We can infer, then, that Louise has not been able to live for herself; she's had to live for her husband. Despite his love for her, marriage traditions and even laws of the time said that her husband had a right to "impose [his] will" upon her by making the important decisions for their family. Though she acknowledges his love for her, her freedom is worth much more to her.

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Being a fictional short story, there isn't an actual thesis in the work.  If I were going to choose one sentence that emphasizes the meaning of the story it would be the very last sentence.  

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of joy that kills.

This sentence points to the irony in the story.  We as readers know that Mrs. Mallard didn't die joyfully, but rather at the shock and disappointment that her husband was still alive.

If you are looking for a thesis, as in the main point, of the story, it would be that women are oppressed in marriage relationships.  In most of her works, Chopin was concerned about showing the role of women in society and in marriages.

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