The Story of an Hour Questions and Answers

Kate Chopin

Read real teacher answers to our most interesting The Story of an Hour questions.

How are the themes of marriage and control expressed throughout the story?

Many readers assume that Chopin's story has at its center a picture of a bad or abusive marriage. To the contrary, details in the story suggest that nothing is particularly wrong with the Mallards' marriage—in fact, Louise Mallard comments that Brently Mallard "never looked save with love upon her"—but that the issue is the institution of marriage itself. In other words, Mrs. Mallard doesn't dislike her marriage in particular but dislikes the concept of marriage in which "a kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime. . . . ." The control man and wife have over the other is at the heart of the story.

Brently Mallard

It is a nice literary touch that has Brently Mallard supposedly killed in a train accident. It not only triggers all of his wife's repressed emotions, but it shows the great difference between men and women in those days. Brently is free to come and go as he pleases. He can travel all over the United States and see new sights, meet new people, eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, and generally enjoy a more interesting, meaningful life. Meanwhile, Louise Mallard his wife is confined to a house where she follows the same routine she will be following for the rest of her life. She is a domestic slave even when her husband is away from home. She is only expected to be there when he gets back. For an hour Louise feels "free," but as a woman her freedom would still be far less unrestricted than that enjoyed by men. Mainly, she would be free to discover her own personal identity. She would not be free to travel, for example, because she would have no place to go in a man's world and no particular reason for going anywhere. Money, of course, would be a major concern. It does not seem likely that she would want to marry again--but she soon learns that she doesn't have that option anyway. Brently Mallard appears only momentarily at the end of the story. When his wife sees him still alive, she realizes that her dreams of freedom will never be realized.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills.