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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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Did Kate Chopin admire or disdain Mrs. Mallard's behavior in The Story of an Hour?

Quick answer:

Chopin admires Mrs. Mallard for being unafraid to feel the emotions she does and face the consequences of her true feelings.

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Chopin admires—or, more to the point, sympathizes with—Mrs. Mallard's behavior. In the course of an hour, Mrs. Mallard hears her husband has died in a train accident, retires by herself to grieve, and then experiences joy and elation as she realizes she now has the freedom to lead her own life on her own terms. When her husband returns, reports of his death having been mistaken, she dies from shock and disappointment.

Chopin presents Mrs. Mallard's self-honesty, in being able to understand how mixed her feelings are about her husband's death, as sympathetic. Mrs. Mallard does mourn her husband and acknowledge he was good to her, but she also has the intelligence and insight to realize that she has been liberated by his death. Chopin does not condemn Mrs. Mallard as evil for having these emotions. Instead, she presents the idea of Mrs. Mallard becoming an independent person as a desirable situation.

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Kate Chopin was a feminist, and she created a sympathetic character in Louise Mallard. Because she is caring wife who feels sorrow for the untimely death of her husband, she cries when she hears the news. She mentally acknowledges that he was only kind to her, though the reader comes to understand she felt oppressed by their marriage. As it begins to dawn on Louise that Brently's death represents freedom for her and offers a life she can live independently, she rises to her feet with "a feverish triumph in her eyes, and [she] carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory." Chopin lost her husband to malaria when she was thirty-two, and though she had six children to raise on her own, she pursued her writing career. It is conceivable that she might not have done so under different circumstances, and it is arguable that, in creating Louise Mallard, she was in some way speaking to her own experience. It seems unlikely, then, that she would feel disdain for Louise's behavior.

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