When she first hears of Brently's death, Louise (Mrs. Mallard) is grief-stricken. She weeps uncontrollably in her sister's arms. She then retires to her room and sobs periodically. Subsequently, she starts to gain some focus on a feeling that is slowly arising in her mind. At first, still feeling the need to grieve, she resists this increasing impulse. But then she relents and realizes it is the feeling of freedom:
When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!"
She did not feel bad about feeling so joyful at this newly discovered freedom. She recognized that she would still grieve for her late husband but knew that in the following days, months, and years, she would revel in her new freedom. Although her marriage had been comfortable and relatively happy, Louise realizes (with this awakening of freedom) that being married (certainly during the 1890s and prior) meant that the woman was in a role subservient to the husband. Recognizing that she would no longer be forced into this suppressed role, and relegated to the expectations of a dutiful wife, Louise was bursting with the joy of this new freedom.