What was Mrs. Mallard's first reaction to the news of her husband's alleged death, and what words did she use to express her later feelings?This question is from "The Story of an Hour," by Kate...

What was Mrs. Mallard's first reaction to the news of her husband's alleged death, and what words did she use to express her later feelings?

This question is from "The Story of an Hour," by Kate Chopin.

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Louise Mallard's first reaction to the news of her husband's death is a "storm of grief" that spends itself quickly; she then retreats to her bedroom, alone. We learn, from the narrator's description of this response, that Louise had reacted unusually: "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance." In other words, Louise doesn't react the way most other women have or would have.

As she sits, alone in her room, the narrator describes all the signs of "new spring life" that Louise sees outside of the window. This is another clue to Louise's unusual reaction: she notices only the pleasant things. She sees the "tops of trees that were all aquiver" and the smells "delicious breath of rain . . . in the air." She hears someone singing far away as well as the "countless sparrows . . . twittering in the eaves," and she sees that there are "patches of blue sky" showing through the clouds. It is as though what is happening outside, the signs of the rebirth of nature in spring, is echoing what is happening to Louise inside: she is realizing that she has been reborn, so to speak, as a free woman. The only words she says for quite a while are "'free, free, free!'" Rather than feeling any stress or tension, "Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body."

Louise's last words are to her sister, assuring Josephine that she is not making herself sick inside the room alone. Finally, she descends the stairs "like a goddess of Victory," reveling in her new freedom. That is, until she sees her husband, very much alive, walk through the door, effectively closing the door on the freedom she dreamed she had.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," Mrs Mallard first cries at the news of her husband's death:

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance.  She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. 

But her despair later changes.  The change comes upon her in stages:

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. 

When she realizes what the thought is that is "coming to her," she whispers:  "...free, free, free."  She thinks of "...a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely.  And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome."

She whispers again:

Free!  Body and soul free!

The progression that occurs in Mrs. Mallard's mind is mostly revealed by the narrator in the form of Mrs. Mallard's thoughts.  But she does use the above words to express her thoughts, as well.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because of Mrs. Mallard's "heart condition," the news about her husband's death was broken to her gently in Kate Chopin's short story, "The Story of an Hour." First, she "wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms." Then she withdrew to her bedroom, where she sank into her "comfortable, roomy armchair." From the open window, she could smell the "delicious breath of rain" in the air; the tops of the trees were alive with "new spring life." From her favorite chair, she whispered over and over "free, free, free." Her pulse beat fast, warming her blood, and a "monstrous joy" overcame her.

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering. 

Read the study guide:
The Story of an Hour

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