Much like the sister-in-law, Jennie, of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's protagonist of "The Yellow Wallpaper," who falls in line with patriarchy and assists her brother John in watching and restricting the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard's sister-in-law Josephine also represents the Victorian feminine ideal. For, rather than grieving on her own, she takes upon herself the responsibility of being solicitous of Louise Mallard since she believes that Louise's heart is delicate. However, the irony is that Mrs. Mallard's "heart trouble" is trouble in the soul caused by repression that is actually relieved when she learns of her husband's demise.
So, as Louise Mallard sits privately in her room before the open window that heralds Springtime and a rebirth of spirit for her, gathering her strength from the strong impulse of self-assertion after having mounted the stairs, it is Josephine who mitigates her joy by subserviently kneeling at the keyhole of the closed door, pleading,
"Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."
Josephine stands as a reminder to Louise of the patriarchal system under which she has been forced to exist; therefore, wishing to relish her freedom--"the very elixir of life through the open window"--she orders Josephine, "Go away, I am not making myself ill." But, Josephine refuses to leave, perhaps standing as a symbol of the persistent presence of patriarchal rule in Louise's life that is, tragically, resurrected fully as the "victorious" Louise Mallard descends the stars only to witness her husband coming through the front door.
With the feminine ideal beside her and the patriarch before her, Louise Mallard's new spirit is destroyed; her shock at seeing the man she has loved now alive dominates her weakened soul and it is unable to sustain her new "monstrous joy" with its promise of the future. With two representatives of Victorian stultified life near her, Louise Mallard's heart succumbs to the emotional impact of losing her newly acquired joie de vivre [joy/love of life]; moreover, the emotional deprivation of this joy kills her.
Josephine, the sister of Louise Mallard, sympathizes with the loss and pain that her sister experiences upon the death of her husband.
"It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message. "
Here at the beginning of the story, she is extremely careful with the manner she informs her sister of Brently's death. She tells her somewhat tacitly and in hints in order to not upset her more than necessary. She is extremely concerned about Louise's psychological and physical state after she gives her the news. Not realizing that Louise is experiencing moments of freedom and joy, she worries that her sister will make herself ill.
"Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhold, imploring for admission. 'Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door.'"
The story ends when the narrator informs the audience that Louise Mallard has passed away upon discovering that her husband was nowhere near the railroad disaster. Consequently, the story does not discuss the loss that Josephine feels when she has lost her sister. But throughout the story she displays great sympathy and concern for Louise's emotional state and trials.