Why does Kate Chopin use the last name Mallard in "The Story of an Hour?"  Mallard is a symbol of a duck, what might her thought process be?

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kate Chopin may have named her protagonist Louise Mallard, in "The Story of an Hour," based upon the fact that the antagonist (her husband, Brently Mallard) is thought to be dead.

Here, one could consider a duck on a pond. A duck can submerge itself when searching for food. When submerged, one cannot see the duck. Therefore, a submerged duck could look as if it is not really there. That being said, Louise believes her husband to be dead, but, in actuality, he is alive. It is not until Louise has made her "transformation" that Brently appears, much like a duck emerging from under the water to breathe again.

Given that Brently has oppressed Louise, one could associate the submerging of a duck with Louise's life with her husband. When her husband is thought to be dead is when she is able to breathe, given she cannot see him (much like a submerged duck). Once he surfaces, Louise is forced to reclaim her oppressed life (and she must try to survive "submerged").

This image shows the couple as foils, or mirrors, of the other: when one is able to breathe, the other is not.

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The Story of an Hour

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