The central theme in "Story of an Hour" is the sense of freedom and identity that comes to a nineteenth century woman, known as Mrs. Mallard, when she learns that her husband has died. It is "new spring" when Mrs. Mallard receives the news, and after experiencing a "storm of grief," she sits reflecting, facing an open window. Mrs. Mallard had not had an unhappy marriage, and Mr. Mallard had been kind enough, but under the social conventions of the time, she had had to take a place of subservience beneath her husband, his "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." As Mrs. Mallard sits by the window, she considers that, now, she will be able to live only for herself, as she watches "patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds," reflecting her dawning realization of freedom. Her repressed spirit, symbolized by "a dull stare in her eyes," fixes "away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky," and her soul grasps at this new hope as represented in the gentle coming of spring.
Mrs. Mallard feels something wonderful coming to her, "creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that fill(s) the air;" she drinks "the elixir of life through that open window. As she feverishly embraces her newfound freedom, "her fancy...run(s) riot," and she looks with anticipation at the days ahead, "spring days and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own." Mrs. Mallard is looking forward to life now, after the winter of a marriage that allowed her little sense of self, and feels in her heart that it will be wonderful, like spring and summer, full of hope and promise.