Why is "The Story of an Hour" usually considered a work of feminist literature?Why is "The Story of an Hour"  usually considered a work of feminist literature?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chopin focuses on the joy that Louise Mallard realizes when she learns that her husband has died.  Within the frame of this story is the quiet struggle that women of the late 19th century fought others challenged the laws and attempted to gain equality and the right to vote.

Louise Mallard is subject to her husband's control because that is what society, or the social order of the time dictated.  There is no discussion of the independence of women, it exists only in Louise Mallard's dreams, as a married woman, that is.  She would, as a widow, have more freedom than a single woman.  As a widow, she could attend events and functions alone without any scandal or impropriety because she "was" married. 

What Chopin writes about in this story and others is the essence of being an individual with freedom of choice that is both offered and accepted by society. 

"she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination."

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great question, and the answer relies on your reading of the text and your understanding of feminism.  

Think about this woman's marriage.  How does she perceive the marriage?  Is it good, bad, or indifferent? What is her response when she believes her husband to be dead? Is she happy or sad? What does that response tell you about her marriage? 

Now, think about what feminism is.  It is a movement or ideology meant to empower females and promote their equality and self-actualization in all aspects of life, particularly within their relationships with males, including marriage. 

Taking those two ideas together, ask whether the story shows that this woman is equal, empowered, and self-actualized within the marriage?  Are there any clues in the text that tell you whether the woman believes that she has an opportunity to be empowered and self-actualized within the hour in which she thinks her husband is dead? What does that tell you about the marriage? 

What is Chopin trying to say in this story about the effect of marriage upon women's ability to be empowered? How is that message consistent with feminism? 

Good luck to you with your answer.

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The Story of an Hour

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