illustrated portrait of American author Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin

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Compare and contrast "The Story of an Hour" and The Awakening.

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"The Story of an Hour" and The Awakening are joined in being centrally about a middle-class woman coming to an acute awareness of her own desire for autonomy and freedom and having, at least for the moment, the possibility of acting on it. However, the two stories differ in that in "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard dies of the shock at finding her husband is actually alive. This is a far more passive ending than that of Edna in The Awakening, who, upset by Adele's death in childbirth and Robert's ending of their relationship, actively responds by committing suicide.

"The Story of an Hour" is, of course, a short story and thus far more compact than the The Awakening. It focuses solely on one hour in a woman's life and on the joy she feels as she realizes that her husband's death liberates her to live freely. The Awakening spans a longer period of time, and it involves such complexities as Edna's friend Adele, the devoted wife and mother, acting as a foil to Edna's rejection of those roles. The Awakening is also complicated by the existence of Edna's children and her making decisions that might not be in their best interests. And because Edna takes matters into her own hands rather than just reacting to circumstances that fall her way, she is more open to criticism for stepping outside of the expected female role in her time period.

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