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 is the message of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin and her most famous novel?

Quick answer:

The message of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is about a woman's desire for freedom from marriage and thematically argues that oppression can ultimately be a killer. Chopin's most famous novel is The Awakening.

Expert Answers

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

The message of "The Story of an Hour" is that no one wins when women are oppressed. It is certainly possible to point out that men seem to have more favorable lives when they, but not women, are allowed to have full, rounded identities and lots of roles in society, as well as institutional power. These advantages may make it seem as though men have it made in a scenario like this while women, alone, suffer the consequences of inequality. However, Brently Mallard truly seems to love his wife. Even Louise Mallard, in the midst of her relief that she is now a widow and has acquired a kind of freedom that she has never before possessed, is forced to recall how his face had "never looked save with love upon her." The narrator even describes Brently's hands as "kind" and "tender." How would he feel, do you think, to learn that his beloved wife is actually relieved, even joyful, after hearing of his supposed death? I would think that he'd feel horrified and quite hurt.

It seems as though Louise only married Brently because that is what is expected of women and not because she really loved him and wanted to spend her life with him; she desires independence and autonomy, which she would never get in a marriage during this era. Brently, one would think, would want a wife who loves him back, who would not rejoice in her own freedom after his death. However, as a result of women's oppression in this era, he has a wife who only loves him "sometimes." She certainly loves her freedom more. Therefore, though Brently has more power, his wife doesn't really love him and is mostly happy with the idea of her life after his death.

As others have mentioned, Chopin's famous novel is The Awakening, a text that takes place in the same era and conveys a similar message.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To determine the message of the short story "The Story of an Hour," it's important to consider the central conflict of the protagonist.

Louise Mallard is not even referred to by her first name until the end of the story. Instead, she is introduced to us as Mrs. Mallard, her identity tied up in that of her husband. When Louise believes that she has been widowed, she finds herself overwhelmed with emotion. She tries to "beat it back" because Louise understands that the joy which fills her soul might be considered "monstrous."

Although this might surprise the reader, Louise's conflict with a society which offers her an identity only in being a wife (and since she is still young, we can presume that later she could add on the role of mother) is a universal conflict spanning time and cultures. Believing herself to be a new widow, Louise looks to the future with eager anticipation, eager for the days ahead when "no powerful will [would] bend hers in … blind persistence." Her soul breathes in the freedom of reclaiming her own "body and soul."

Therefore, the message of this short story is the importance of allowing women to have an independent identity and being free to follow their own dreams. When Louise Mallard's dreams are extinguished as Brently unexpectedly returns home, the loss kills her. She has tasted the "very elixir of life" and cannot live without the possibility of this newfound joy.

As other educators have commented, her most famous novel is The Awakening, published in 1899.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would argue that the message of "The Story of an Hour" relates to the oppressive nature of marriage. When Louise hears that her husband, Brently, has died, her grief is almost immediately followed by a feeling of relief that she is now free to live her life on her own terms. This is not to say that Brently was a bad man or an abusive husband. On the contrary, he loved Louise and was good to her. However, living within the confines of marriage meant that Louise had certain obligations.

The notion of living a life free of obligations and expectations leads Louise to an almost giddy feeling of elation. When this is taken away from her when her husband arrives home and the news of his death is proved to be false, Louise dies on the spot. While the doctors call the cause of death a heart attack, Kate Chopin is subtly implying that it is the loss of her newfound freedom and the knowledge of her continued oppression within her marriage that kills her.

Kate Chopin’s most famous novel is The Awakening, which is set in the late 1800s and tells the story of another woman’s sexual awakening, liberation, and desire for freedom from her husband.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kate Chopin's most famous short novel is called The Awakening, and it was published in 1899.

Her 1894 short story, "The Story of an Hour," suggests that for women of the time, many freedoms that they desired were denied to them because of the repressive nature of marriage and, more broadly, society. Only when her husband Brently Mallard is presumed dead does Louise begin to dream of a free "body and soul." The story does not suggest that Brently Mallard is abusive toward Louise, but she longs to be free of the "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." Louise longs for the ability to make her own decisions and spend her time as she chooses. The fact that her husband's friend Richards is there both to break the news to her and shield her from the shocking reappearance of Brently suggests a paternalistic societal structure that treats Louise like a child.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There have been many differing views published on "Story of an Hour" but most readers agree that it is a feminist expression.  The story was written in 1890's and it reflected the very real idea of American society at that time that a woman could live only through her husband.  Most readers are shocked-more so then than now- that Mrs. Mallard feels free now that her husband is dead.  Irony is woven throughout this very short story.  Still the overriding "message" of this story is that Mrs. Mallard is in a marriage that literally kills her.

Kate Chopin is probably far better known for her short stories like "The Storm" and "Desiree's Baby", but the more famous of her two novels was The Awakening.  Her other novel was At Fault.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the central idea of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour"? What are the themes of the story?

You might choose to examine the forbidden joy of feminine independence as one theme "The Story of an Hour."

Introduced as "Mrs. Mallard" in the first line of the short story, Louise's identity is inextricably wrapped up in that of her husband. When she is told that he has died, she retreats to be alone with the news and is surprised to feel a great emotion welling up inside her. As she begins to recognize that it is joy that is overtaking her soul, she first attempts to "beat it back with her will" but finds herself nonetheless growing increasingly excited by a new and previously unknown opportunity before her: freedom.

Louise allows herself to whisper the word "free" repetitively underneath her breath. She acknowledges that her husband "never looked save with love upon her," but she also recalls the way she was required to "live for" his needs throughout their entire marriage. She realizes that her husband's death is a gift; she can finally "live for herself" and prays that "life might be long" so that she can enjoy "all sorts of days that would be her own." Her first name is finally provided as she is summoned by her sister to rejoin society. Louise walks "like a goddess of Victory" as she emerges with her own sense of independent identity.

With a heart full of unexpected and unbridled joy, Louise is shocked when her husband appears back at home. Louise loses her brief glimpse into an independent life, and the devastating loss seemingly kills her.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, what are the different themes found in this story? Can you explain the different themes with a sentence?

The theme of a work of literature is rightly understood to be a statement of a universal truth that the piece conveys or that the author wishes to communicate through the work. The text of the work must provide evidence for the theme, and the theme must be central to the plot and characters. Ideally a theme should be expressed in a complete sentence rather than in just a word or two. With that said, a work can have more than one theme, and different readers can find different themes within the same work.

In Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," an obvious theme is that marriage, even a good marriage, infringes on one's freedom. Mrs. Mallard does not dislike her husband, and she has not been unhappy in her marriage. But upon hearing of her husband's death she begins to imagine the freedom she will now experience, and she delights in the thought so much so that learning suddenly that her husband did not die is such a shock to her that she herself dies of a heart attack. 

One could take a more feminist approach to the story and suggest a theme that relates to gender roles in the time period of the story or to gender roles within a marriage. In that case, one might state the theme as follows: "Because of society's expectations of women in marriage, a woman often feels stifled while married and can only enjoy true freedom as a widow." The same evidence could be used to support this theme as the more general, non-gender-specific theme stated previously. True, Chopin points out that both men and women seek to assert their wills over each other, but a feminist perspective would point out that historically men had much more freedom in movement and decision-making than women did.

Another theme one could derive from the story is that love must be very strong to compensate for the lack of freedom that marriage brings. In the story Mrs. Mallard admits she loved her husband, except when she did not. Because her love for her husband wavered, she experienced a greater sense of freedom than of grief when she heard of her husband's death. 

Another theme of the story could be that husbands and wives often do not know the deep, hidden thoughts of their spouse. Mr. Mallard apparently had no idea of his wife's longing for freedom, and she took that secret to the grave with her.

These ideas are several possible themes from "The Story of an Hour," which is a simple, brief story that overflows with meaning. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, what are the different themes found in this story? Can you explain the different themes with a sentence?

Luckily for you, this question has already been answered. I found the answer for you.

Thank you for using enotes!

http://www.enotes.com/story-hour/q-and-a/what-theme-story-an-hour-what-main-idea-5031

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on