illustration of a woman in a dress standing as if she were in shock

The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

Start Free Trial

What are three character traits of Mrs. Mallard in "The Story of an Hour"?

Quick answer:

In "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard exhibits three primary character traits: dutifulness, naivety, and passion. As a dutiful wife, she initially grieves her husband's supposed death. Her naivety is evident when she grapples with unfamiliar feelings of freedom. Lastly, her passion surfaces as she unapologetically relishes her newfound independence. These traits are revealed through her reactions to her husband's reported death and the subsequent realization of her freedom.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mrs. Mallard is dutiful, naïve, and passionate. Over the course of “The Story of an Hour,” she reveals these three character traits through her reaction to news of her husband’s supposed death.

First, Mrs. Mallard is dutiful and faithful to her role as a devoted wife. When she...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

hears about the train accident, she weeps “with sudden, wild abandonment" in a “storm of grief.” After retreating to her room to be alone, she calms down and admits that

She had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not.

Despite this ambivalence, she definitely feels affection for him and implies that she was always obedient to him. Her following sentiment suggests a past, stereotypical, and deferential existence as his wife:

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.

She joyfully realizes that she no longer will be expected to follow her husband’s unwelcome command.

Second, Mrs. Mallard is naïve. Having never before experienced freedom outside of a traditional role of a dutiful wife, she is initially frightened by feelings of liberation.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her … her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will—as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.

Author Chopin implies that this upper-class housewife lives a sheltered, materially comfortable existence. Up until now, Mrs. Mallard dared not think outside of her circumscribed duty as a wife. Now confronted with the loss of that role, however, she is alarmed by the impending future and bewildering emotional changes. As unfamiliar feelings begin to overtake her, she resists them before surrendering to them. Eventually, her “look of terror” becomes a celebration of independence.

Third, Mrs. Mallard is passionate and unapologetic in her elation at newfound autonomy. After rejoicing in the realization that her husband’s death sets her free, she feels no shame.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.

Instead of feeling guilty over her joy at emancipation resulting from her husband’s death, she welcomes independence with open arms. Although she will continue to play the proper wife in public and weep over her husband’s dead body, Mrs. Mallard knows that she now has

possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

When she finally reveals herself to the public (i.e., her sister and her husband’s friend, Richards), she cannot hide the

a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory.

Approved by eNotes Editorial