Louise Mallard is the protagonist of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," and she suffers from a weak heart. When her sister and a family friend learn that Brentley Mallard, Louise's husband, has been killed in a train wreck, they want to break the news to her gently so she does not have a heart attack.
When she hears the news, Louise seems to be in shock due to her grief; however, when she is finally alone in her room we learn that she is not upset that her husband is dead. She is relieved and feels free for the first time in her life.
[A] little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under the breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.
She refers to her feelings as a "monstrous joy," because she knows she should be feeling something different; however, she dismisses the thought quickly. She thinks about the things she will miss.
She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead.
It is clear from this description that she will miss Brentley Mallard, someone who always treated her with kindness; so her lack of grief is not because she was abused or mistreated. She goes on to say:
But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.
What she looks forward to is a future where she can make her own decisions and live only for herself rather than for someone else.
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.
While she knows that her husband never had any cruel intentions toward her and only wanted the best for her, she still had to bend her will to his. She did not get to make decisions for herself. She admits that "she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not." Now
she breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.
Louise's sister is worried about her, but Louise is happy.
"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.
The tragic irony happens when she finally does go downstairs, only to discover that her husband is still alive. She dies of a heart attack, but it is not joy that kills her, as everyone supposes. Now she grieves, but it is not for the loss of a husband but for the loss of the free life she had just begun to experience.
There is very little traditional grieving in this story; instead, Louise does not grieve at the loss of her husband and dies of grief when she realizes what she has lost because he is alive.
Louise Mallard has lost her husband in a railroad disaster. She is devastated upon receiving the news.
" She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her. . . Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul. "
Louise, however, also experiences a great deal of joy derived from her new found freedom upon her husbands death. Upon discovering that her husband was nowhere near the accident and is actually alive, Louise passes away. The experience of once again having freedom, the kind of liberty she possessed as a child, and having it removed from her is perhaps the greatest pain that she experiences.
"When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills."