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Author Kate Chopin gives both Louise Mallard and the reader a short but wild ride of emotional ups and downs in "The Story of an Hour." The title is appropriate. We learn a great deal about both Louise and her husband during the compact short story. I find it gratifying that Louise is able to experience at least a short time of independence from her husband during the time she believes him dead. She is able to dream of a new life and a new world that has opened up for her. She is able to see the outside world in a new light, albeit only for a few minutes. The shocking news of her husband's survival is met with the only possible result: How could Louise go back to her old life after experiencing those few moments of freedom? Her own death is a perfect ending to the story and a much more satisfying alternative to a return to the misery of her previous life.
If the assignment is to develop your own perception of it, you might have to engage in some personal reflection of it. Having said this, I like the idea of the story and the exploration of two experiences that Louise undergoes. The first of her husband dying and the second of what she envisions life being without him. I think that the experience of what a woman is supposed to feel and then what she might actually feel is something brought out quite nicely in the short story. In my mind, the tone in both sections is extremely powerful and the ending is also something that proves to be rich in meaning. Louise's death might be a statement on how far social orders need to go in order to fully validate and authenticate the experience of being a woman. In this light, Chopin's story is a meaningful one.
"The Story of an Hour" is one of my favorite short stories. The language that Chopin uses in the story has a lyric quality that is most notable when read aloud. When the narrator describes the spring days, the reader can feel the sense of freedom that Mrs. Mallard feels. Further, Chopin plays with words in the story such as in the following lines:
"She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long."
The ironic twist in these lines causes the reader to sympathize with Mrs. Mallard's situation.
Finally, I appreciate Chopin's overall message about the constraints that are often a part of marriage and relationships. That ". . .men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature" is still a dynamic that we can relate to today. Often, because we are close to others in relationships, we take for granted their desire and need for independence.
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