The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

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Why does Mrs. Mallard feel so “Free! Body and soul free” in "The Story of an Hour"?

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When Mrs. Mallard learns of her husband's accidental death in Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," she weeps with "sudden, wild abandonment," and then she goes to her room alone, for "[S]he would have no one follow her."  Alone upstairs in her room, facing an open window which looks out onto the spring day, Mrs. Mallard feels

pressed down by a physical exhaustion that hauted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

In contrast to these feelings, Mrs. Mallard feels "the delicious breath of rain" in the air and hears the happy singing of birds.  Clearly present in these passages is a subtle conflict.  For, while downstairs, Mrs. Mallard has abandoned herself in weeping, but then gains control and retreats to her room.  Now, in her room she sits motionless, but a sob finds its way into her throat, and she abandons herself again.  However, this time the sob is for herself as she dully gazes "off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky." a symbol of the future. The brewing storm of emotions within her, "something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully," resists any control that Mrs. Mallard can exert because of her social mores.  She is almost giddy as the realization that her life will no longer be dictated by the patriarchal society Mr. Mallard represents, under which her individuality has been repressed, comes to her.  Under her breath, she whispers the words she dare not shout in joy, "free, free, free!" 

The contrast between the joy that Louise...

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