What view of marriage is portrayed in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin?  

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin portrays one significant hour in the life of the protagonist of the story, Mrs. Louise Mallard. The narration is third person with a limited omniscient narrator telling the story.

Louise has two problems at the beginning of the story.  She has some kind of serious heart problem, and she has just been told her husband, Brently, was killed in an accident. Of course, Louise initially cannot contain her grief.  Soon, she goes to her room to rest and contemplate this life altering news. 

From the few details provided by the author, the marriage between Louise and Brently had not been unhappy.  They are apparently upper middle class with Brently as some kind of professional man. Brently believed that Louise had to be watched and cared for because of her illness.  Louise probably would have described it as smothered and mothered.

The reader learns that Louise knows that her husband loves her. Louise does have feelings for her husband.  In fact, she states that sometimes she loves him and sometimes she does not.  On the other hand, Brently apparently had complete control over Louise as she describes his "powerful will bending her." His intentions were to protect her; however, to Louise, it was a crime to impose one person's will on another person. In those late 19th century standards, their marriage was probably typical. The man ruled the home and the marriage.  The woman's purpose was to take care of the house and serve the man in all ways. 

Louise knows that she will weep for Brently again when she sees him in his coffin. Lovingly, she describes his hands as kind and tender. 

She knew she would cry 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.

The one thing that Louise is absolutely sure of is her desire for freedom: from her marriage, from the confinement for her illness, to do whatever she wanted. This she describes as a "montrous joy" because it comes from her husband's death but her complete happiness to be free.

Nothing really matters because in the end Louise is shocked by Brently's return and her loss of freedom. She falls down to the floor dead from her heart disease.   As Chopin states: she died from the "joy that kills."

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