The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

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What is the message of "The Story Of An Hour"? Does Kate Chopin want women to come out of the shackles of man? I want to know whether Kate had the same kind of life as Mrs. Mallard led.

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sagetrieb eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Chopin often does write about freedom in a woman’s life and how marriage can constrain that; however, this short story shows freedom a bit differently.  In describing how she feels now that the protagonist’s husband (seems to be) dead, the narrator says, “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.” We learn right after this that maybe the protagonist loved her husband, maybe she didn’t—the point is freedom from responsibility of all sorts. Women, the narrator implies, are capable of placing the same burdens on their fellow creatures as men are.  The “persistence” is “blind” as well, suggesting it is an innate quality about human behavior, not just the behavior of men.  Often Chopin seems to privilege women in her stories simply because they are much more interesting to write about than men.

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renelane eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"The Story of an Hour" deals with the role of women in marriage, and this does reflect Chopin's own opinions on the plight of women in society with respect to their roles in marriage. It can certainly be seen that a she might have felt like her protagonist during her marriage. However, the Mrs. Mallard and Chopin's lives are not exactly parallel.

Chopin married a man who adored her independence and had six children, but the family struggled financially. Oscar, Chopin's husband, was not a great provider due to his poor business sense and later became ill, so it can be seen that Chopin might have felt trapped in her marriage with few options available to her. When Oscar died, Chopin was in an even darker financial state, and began writing to bring in an income. Chopin's female characters often struggle with the expectations society places on women, and seem to echo Chopin's own feelings. It would be interesting to know if she felt the relief that Mrs. Mallard does at the supposed death of her husband.

In this particular story, the woman feels a tremendous freedom when she is told her husband is dead, as if she is finally free of the obligations forced on her. Of course, the irony is, it was all a mistake and he was very much alive. This leads to her breakdown, as she thrust back into her prison of expectations.

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