I am writing an argumentive essay on self-identity and freedom. Why would freedom be significant to "The Story of an Hour"?
Freedom is so important to this story because it is precisely what Louise Mallard has lacked since she married. After she is told of her husband's death and goes to her room, the narrator describes her as "young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength." She is still young, so she must have married younger, and her face seems to betray the fact that she has felt repressed for some time. At first, Louise does not seem to realize what it is she is feeling, but she eventually names it, saying "over and over under her breath: 'free, free, free!'" The overwhelming feeling she experiences upon the death of her husband is something like relief, relief that she is now free from the restrictions of marriage.
It is clear that her husband was not a cruel one, and she knows that he "had never looked save with love upon her," but marriage granted him a certain amount of control over her. Even if he chose not to exert it, marriage still requires compromise, but Louise wants to live for herself—not in order to satisfy someone else. Now, she thinks, "There would be no one to live for her during those coming years. . . . There would be no powerful will bending hers." With her husband gone, or so she thinks, Louise will be able, perhaps for the first time as an adult, to make her own decisions without having to concern herself with what someone else wants from her. She looks on her future full of "days that would be her own" and rejoices at the prospect of a long life until the tragic and ironic end: her own death, the result of her shock at seeing her husband, alive, and her realization that she is not, in fact, free.
The story is essentially about the freedom Mrs. Mallard feels when she "realizes" that her husband is dead. After the initial shock wears off, she is aware of the freedom that is now hers, that she is no longer under his "control." This new life is symbolized by the fact that, when she looks out the window, it is spring ... and her life is at a new spring. As it is expressed in the notes, "she is ecstatic that she will never have to bend her will to his again."
Although she is diagnosed of having died of a heart attach, the result of the sudden joy she experiences when her husband returns, we know that what dies is the dream of her new life, her new person, and that death takes her with it.