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While the setting of "The Story of an Hour" is static, it certainly can be analyzed from the perspectives of time, place and society. All of these factors impact the plot and move it forward. These perspectives also bring deeper meaning to many details in the story.
First, a social setting is defined as the historical and communal context within which the story takes place. This encompasses the phenomenologies taking place at a certain time period in history, social trends, parameters of behavior, and the accepted notions and constructs that decide the do's and don'ts of the time.
This being said, the social setting of "The Story of an Hour" is the 19th century, which is a time period in history where women were seen as nurturers, and not as independent thinkers. As a result, women would have been expected to serve society mainly as wives and mothers. Marriages, however, were seldom (if ever) love matches. Instead, they were networking opportunities to increase family fortunes, or link family names.
This was all a consequence of the Industrial Revolution, which (no redundance intended) revolutionized life in general. More technology, more jobs, more money, and more advancements helped to redefine gender roles and the role of "family", morality, and civility. Unfortunately for women, they became redefined as "angels of the household", which was a widely accepted term and construct of the time.
We learn that Louise Mallard "had loved" her husband Brentley Mallard, but she has evidently reached a point in her existence where passions other than wifely love are beginning to tug at her spirit. She wants to be independent, enjoy life her way, and become "free". This need for freedom leads to the second setting, which focuses on "place".
The "place" setting of the story is the Mallard residence. No character leaves the inside of the home, but both Richards and Brentley are the only characters that do come in. Whether this could be a metaphor representing men entering and dominating the personal space of women is unclear, but it is a possibility.
Within this setting, there is an inner sanctum: Louise's room. In there, the armchair that faces the window provides Louise with a comforting visual of what life looks like outside the home where she appears to live like a recluse.
Whether it is because her heart is weak, or because her husband expects her to be there, the point remains that Louise needs that window to see the "patches of blue sky" and the green pastures to which she desperately wants to go. She wants out--of her marriage, of her situation, and of her house.
The time setting is perhaps the easiest to identify as the story takes place, literally, within one hour. During this time period, the main character undergoes a dynamic change. She goes from being psychologically subdued
Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.
to becoming a wild dreamer with a passion that we would have never known about otherwise.
There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory.
It is then when she transforms into a person who is prepared to embrace the freedom of being her own person. She wants this more than anything and, as her husband shows up alive and well, she cannot even imagine going back to the shell from which she blossomed in such a short period of time. This is why she dies of what is ironically dubbed as "joy that kills".
The setting is an American city, the time is the late 19th century. The social setting is defined by a male dominated society where women have little to say about their lives. They go from their father's house to their husband's house. Mrs. Mallard lives with her husband, who makes all the decisions in the home, and for his wife. As a married woman, Louise Mallard must fall in line behind her husband.
The time period is significant to the story because Louise Mallard dreams of a life of freedom of choice to pursue her individual interests. This life escapes her, except in the brief period when she imagines it with all its joys before she discovers that her husband was not killed, and before she dies.
The story was published in 1894, in the midst of the battle for women's rights. Society was struggling to define the proper roles for women, it would be almost 25 years before women would get the right to vote.
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