In The Story of an Hour, what motivates Mrs. Mallard to action? What has shaped her, her feelings, thoughts, philosophies?
Mrs. Mallard's reaction to the news of her husband's death is shaped by her longing for individual freedom, a concept that a married woman of her time did not have.
During this period in history, 1894, there was a great debate going on regarding the role of women in society. Women don't get the right to vote until 1920, however the struggle for equality for individual rights began in 1848. So Louise Mallard was shaped by her desire for acceptance as an individual by society.
As a widow, Mrs. Mallard would be allowed to lead a life of personal choice. Accepted in society, she would not necessarily need to get remarried to attend social functions, host parties or engage in charity work. This is what dominates her thinking for the brief space of one hour before it is all taken away by the return of her very much alive husband.
"Chopin deals with the issues of female self-discovery and identity in "The Story of an Hour." After Mrs. Mallard learns of her husband's death, she is initially overcome with grief. But quickly she begins to feel a previously unknown sense of freedom and relief."
"At first, she is frightened of her own awakening: "There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully." Her own feelings come upon her, possessing her. When she first utters the words "free, free, free!" she is described as having "abandoned herself."