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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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What is the theme of "The Story of an Hour"?

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One of the most important themes of “The Story of an Hour” is how female selfhood is stifled by patriarchal society. There are so many things that Mrs. Mallard wants to do with her life but can't because she's a married woman. It's only when she thinks that her husband is dead that her true self as a woman is finally able to present itself.

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"The Story of an Hour" is specifically about the ways in which marriage constrained nineteenth-century women from living life as they wished. Marriage was not an equal partnership but an arrangement in which, more often than not, the man was the one in charge.

The most obvious way to show this would have been to make Louise's husband out to be a tyrannical ogre figure, but Chopin is much more clever and realistic in her treatment of him. He is described as pretty normal and a decent fellow who never intended to hurt his wife. He simply assumes, as all of society did in the Victorian era, that women are meant to serve men within a marriage and have no life of their own outside the domestic sphere. Even Louise has some affection for him, which Chopin wryly alludes to: "She did love him. Sometimes." However, this is not enough for Louise, and Chopin seems to suggest it should not be for women in general.

Louise has no identity aside from "wife" until she believes her husband has been killed. With him no longer there, she realizes she can do whatever she wishes without having to run all her plans by a husband. She starts to feel an intense connection with the natural world outside her window, examining the birds in particular, evoking the notion that Louise is a bird about to be free of its cage.

Chopin hammers in the idea of marriage as existential imprisonment for women by having the story end with Louise realizing her husband survived the accident and subsequently dying from shock. Now that Louise has known true joy, having it revoked so suddenly not only triggers her heart trouble, it spiritually destroys her.

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One of the themes in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is freedom. The news of the sudden death of her husband, Brently Mallard, is given to Mrs. Mallard as gently as is possible by her sister Josephine and her husband's friend, Richards. The information is delivered in this manner because Mrs. Mallard is known to have a heart condition that is sensitive to shocking news. On receiving the news, Mrs. Mallard weeps. She is grief-stricken.

Later, after calming down a little, she retires to her room. It is while sitting in her room that she realizes the freedom that the death of her husband would bring her way. The thought possesses her so much that the words “free, free, free” escape her lips. She is excited by the thought of the new independence she will have, for with these thoughts, “her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warms and relaxes every inch of her body.”

She understands that her joy for her newfound freedom and independence does not mean that she hated her husband. What she hated was to live a life in which her will was constantly bent by another person. She would, from then on, live for herself. She is thrilled by the power that lies in being in control of one’s life without the interference of a spouse. She thinks of the many springs and summers yet to come that she would enjoy alone, doing whatever she wanted to do. When Brently walks into the house at the end of the story, he unknowingly tears this freedom from his wife.

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Like so many other women of her time, Mrs. Louise Mallard is seen by society not as an individual in her own right, but as an appendage to her husband. In this traditionally patriarchal society, female individuality is stifled, suppressed, and actively discouraged.

In the late nineteenth century, women were not supposed to be free spirits or allowed to go out into the world and do their own thing. On the contrary, they were expected to stay at home, raise the children, and cater to the needs of their husbands. Though Louise's husband is a good man, whom she claims to love, the Mallards' marriage is based on the same repressive dynamic that operates in so many others at this time.

Yet Louise is profoundly unhappy with all this. Deep down, she yearns to be an emancipated, independent woman capable of living her own life the way she, and not her husband, sees fit. But so long as she's married, she will never have the opportunity to fulfill her dreams.

That's why Louise is so overjoyed when she is informed—incorrectly, as it turns out—that her husband has been killed in a tragic accident. All of a sudden, she can see light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. The end of her marriage means the beginning of a new and exciting life that is full of promise.

It says a lot about the nature of marriage in a patriarchal society that a woman like Louise can only really achieve liberation if her husband dies. And it is supremely ironic that the achievement of female emancipation in such a society is ultimately dependent on men, whether they live or die.

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I just want to add to the theme of the role of women in marriage. One thing the author makes clear in this story is that Brently Mallard was not a mean or abusive husband to Louise. As Louise is sitting in the upstairs room alone, she admits that "she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death, the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead." It's important to know that her husband had been a kind and loving man and, in spite of this, Louise is happy that she will live the rest of her life without him and now hopes she will have a very long life.

The author is stressing to us that women had no rights at that time to choose their lives. Louise Mallard is a woman who wanted opportunities that were available only to men. A woman was conditioned to go from her father's home to her husband's, and no thought was given to asking if she wanted to go to college or work. This is why it takes Louise a moment to understand "this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will ...". She tries to fight this strange feeling she's having, but she can't, and then the words "free, free, free" pour out.

Louise Mallard didn't want out of a bad marriage; she did not want to be married. She wanted to make her own decisions and live her life the way she chose.

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There are two main themes in "The Story of an Hour.” Identity and Selfhood—Chopin examines issues of “female self-discovery and identity” through having her main character demonstrate extreme feelings of grief upon learning of her husband’s death, only to have those feelings immediately replaced by an indescribable feeling she can only describe as "free, free, free!" or as having "abandoned herself."  In essence, she has basically lived through her husband, and now that she thinks he is gone, she realizes with astonishing exhilaration that she is free and her life is her own once again.  Imagine her sense of complete devastation upon his return. The other theme is the Role of Women in Marriage, and Chopin broaches a subject that was not very popular in her time—the right of the husband to dominate the wife in a marriage.  In the story Louise Mallard is elated that she would  no longer have to bend to the will of her husband.

These are the two main themes briefly summarized, but you may read more at the link below.

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What is an example of a thesis statement for "The Story of an Hour"?

Thesis writing is hard work, but it is not something that can't be learned. It is a skill that has to be developed through practice. One reason that thesis writing is difficult is because they are often explained in a paradoxical manner. Teachers will say things like, "Your thesis should be specific, yet broad enough to give you writing room." Other times you are told, "It needs to be concise but long enough to develop an argument."

Because of those kinds of seemingly conflicting advice, I always recommend to students that they should try using what I call a "point and counter-point" thesis format. It ends up being concise and developed while also being specific and broad because it explores two different arguments.

This thesis format will start with the word "although" to force a dependent clause that makes one argument that is followed up by the other side of the argument.

"The Story of an Hour" is a short story, but it packs a punch. You can explore feminist themes. You can explore a character breakdown. You can explore the cause of Mrs. Mallard's death. Personally, I like exploring the institution of marriage or exploring the balance of power within Mrs. Mallard's marriage. One thing to keep in mind is that Mrs. Mallard admits that she loves her husband. She also admits that he is a good man and a solid provider. What becomes clear is that the marriage doesn't have a balance of power. She bends to his will. Mrs. Mallard follows his dreams, and that is why she is excited by her new freedom. She gets to follow her own desires. You could craft a thesis statement that explores that aspect of her marriage. The following thesis is an example: "Although Mrs. Mallard's marriage is a functional marriage complete with love, readers can clearly see that Mrs. Mallard's marriage is not an equal partnership."

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What is an example of a thesis statement for "The Story of an Hour"?

A thesis statement for Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" could focus an essay on the feminist theme found within the story. Though some readers find Louise Mallard's epiphany in the wake of her husband's death shocking, it is a clear statement that she found her marriage oppressive and looked forward to living independently.

To take this approach, a thesis statement could look like this:

Louise Mallard's shocking death at the end of "The Story of an Hour" suggests that to return to an oppressive marriage would be intolerable after she has contemplated a life lived on her own terms.

In the essay, then, an analysis of Louise's brief period of mourning and then mounting joy would feature targeted quotations from the story as the narrator delves into Louise's innermost thoughts about her husband, her marriage, and her imagined freer future.

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What is an example of a thesis statement for "The Story of an Hour"?

In "The Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard finds out her husband has been killed in a railroad accident. She experiences some sadness, but overall, she is elated to be free. Then she sees her husband walking up to house—the report of his death was false. Louise dies of "heart disease" (probably a heart attack) when she sees him. All of this happens within the period of a single hour.

One avenue you could explore is Mrs. Mallard's combination of grief and joy. She is more happy than sad, but she does note that her husband loved her. She recalls that she loved him—"sometimes." This seems to have been a decent marriage. Mr. Mallard does not seem to have been cruel to his wife, or she to him. This suggests that it was not so much this specific marriage that Mrs. Mallard was delighted to be freed of, but the institution of marriage in general. A possible thesis statement could be (and you would have to rework this to suit yourself), "In 'The Story of an Hour,' Kate Chopin is criticizing the institution of marriage and the way, in those times, it oppressed a woman, even in a good marriage." Then you would find quotes and examples to support this point of view.

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What is an example of a thesis statement for "The Story of an Hour"?

You might consider writing the following: the doctors' ultimate ruling concerning Louise Mallard's cause of death is ironic because it is not her joy that kills her, but rather her disappointment at finding her husband alive.  Then, in the essay, you could discuss the imagery of the "new spring life" outside the window and how it seems to symbolize what Louise is feeling inside herself.  For example, she hears the "countless sparrows twittering in the eaves" and notices the "patches of blue sky" and the "delicious breath of rain" in the air.  These are all such positive images.  You could analyze the little speech she does actually have in the story.  For example, why does she repeat the word "free" over and over?  It seems as though her husband was not a bad husband, as he never looked "saved with love" upon her.  You could even discuss her very healthy-sounding physical reaction to her new freedom.  If she is so ill, then why does her "pulses beat fast [now], and the coursing blood warm and relax every inch of her body"?  This sounds healthy, not sick.  

You could use much the same evidence to argue that Louise Mallard's so-called "heart trouble" is actually brought on by her marriage.  The fact that the lines in her "fair, calm face. . . bespoke repression and even a certain strength" seems to signify that it is the "repression" she has felt that may have seemed to weaken her, despite her initial and inherent "strength."  

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What is the thesis of "The Story of an Hour"?

While you won't find a "thesis" as such in a piece of short fiction as you would in an argument-based essay, you can think of the story's "thesis" as its main idea, theme, or message. In the case of "The Story of an Hour," Chopin presents a married woman who has just learned that her husband died in a train accident. While she reacts by weeping at first, once she is alone with her thoughts, Mrs. Mallard realizes that she feels free, rather than burdened, as a result of her husband's death. She knows she will mourn him, will cry at his funeral, and will remember his good qualities. However, even in a relatively happy marriage, the wife's will is subject to that of her husband. Louise Mallard looks out of her window and is drawn to new life in the form of flowers blooming and birds chirping. She feels as though her life, as an individual and not as a wife, is just beginning.

The irony of the story is that, as soon as Louise embraces her new liberty and vows to live only for herself, her husband returns. He was not on the train after all, and the people who see Louise pass out and die upon his return assume she has died of "the joy that kills." In fact, Louise's disappointment at again being subject to another's will and shock at the sudden loss of her freedom more likely have caused her heart attack.

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What is the thesis of "The Story of an Hour"?

The thesis or point of "The Story of an Hour" is that even a good marriage, such as the one Mrs. Mallard had, represses and imprisons a woman. Louise only starts to become free, to expand, and to be herself when, for one brief hour, she believes she is widowed.

In the story, Louise Mallard learns her husband has been killed in a train accident. When she gets away from the women who have gathered to support her (representations of social convention), she moves from mourning to joy as she realizes she is finally free to be herself and organize her life as she would like it to be. This newfound sense of power and liberation is so enticing that Louise dies of a heart attack when she finds out her husband is still alive. She would, it seems, rather be dead that stuffed back in the prison cage of marriage.

The story is a sharp critique of the marriage institution as it was conceived in Chopin's time, in which a woman was supposed to sacrifice her needs and desires to support the needs and desires of her husband. The story emphasizes that Louise was not mistreated and did not at all dislike her husband but that the restraints of the institution of marriage itself stifled her and kept her from reaching her full potential.

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What is the thesis of "The Story of an Hour"?

Do you mean to ask how someone might compose a thesis statement about this story? A good thesis statement should make a claim about the story, a statement with which someone might argue. For example, one might say that, though her husband was loving, Louise Mallard was not happy in her marriage because it restricted her rights and abilities. The narrator says, for example, that "She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength." Here, we learn that Louise has been "repressed" in some way and that it has added some lines to her face and, perhaps, enabled her to develop a kind of strength to endure that repression. Further, the narrator seems to give voice to Louise's thoughts when they say,

What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

Louise, believing her husband to be dead, reflects on love and how it counts for so little when compared to one's ability to assert oneself. Independence is too steep a price to pay for something less valuable, like love. To this same end, she thinks,

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. 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. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

We can infer, then, that Louise has not been able to live for herself; she's had to live for her husband. Despite his love for her, marriage traditions and even laws of the time said that her husband had a right to "impose [his] will" upon her by making the important decisions for their family. Though she acknowledges his love for her, her freedom is worth much more to her.

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What is the thesis of "The Story of an Hour"?

Being a fictional short story, there isn't an actual thesis in the work.  If I were going to choose one sentence that emphasizes the meaning of the story it would be the very last sentence.  

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

This sentence points to the irony in the story.  We as readers know that Mrs. Mallard didn't die joyfully, but rather at the shock and disappointment that her husband was still alive.

If you are looking for a thesis, as in the main point, of the story, it would be that women are oppressed in marriage relationships.  In most of her works, Chopin was concerned about showing the role of women in society and in marriages.

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What is the main message of "The Story of an Hour"?

"The Story of an Hour" was written during a time when women's roles were highly restricted by society. Marriage and motherhood were the highest goals a woman was supposed to have. Within marriage, a woman was supposed to keep house while her husband went out into the world to work. While some women no doubt found such domestic roles fulfilling, not all women did, which is where Kate Chopin's short story comes in.

Louise is a typical Victorian wife from all appearances. When she learns of her husband's death, she weeps. However, she comes to realize that now that her husband is dead, her life totally belongs to her:

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. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

Before, Louise was expected to dedicate her existence to keeping house and serving her husband, but now she has a socially sanctified reason to do as she wills with her life: she is a widow.

Of course, Louise's freedom is short lived. The report of her husband's death turns out to be erroneous. When she sees him alive at the foot of the stairs, she has a heart attack and dies. Her death is due to her heart condition, but it is also symbolic: Louise forged a new identity in the few moments she believed her husband to be gone. Now that he is in fact not dead at all, that identity has been killed. In this way, Chopin's main message is that marriage can be a prison for women, who are expected to subsume their entire identity for the sake of the man in the equation.

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What viewpoint is expressed by the author in “The Story of an Hour”?

Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is told in the omniscient, third person point of view. This viewpoint allows for the narrator of the story to be all-knowing (omniscient) and to share with the readers information that the characters may not be privy to, given their experiences. 

This point of view makes it possible for both of the following pieces of information to be accurate and believable: 

He [Richards] had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message. 

and 

Into this she [Mrs. Mallard] sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

An omniscient point of view allows for readers to experience what Richards felt when he first received the news of Mr. Mallard's death as well as for them to experience what Mrs. Mallard feels in the moments following the news being broken to her. 

Omniscient point of view can be a tremendously useful device, particularly in cases where there are key plot elements happening in different times and places in a story.

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What is the main issue presented in "The Story of an Hour"?

The primary issue or theme of Kate Chopin's “The Story of an Hour” is freedom, and the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, receives and embraces that freedom only briefly. Let's look at how this works.

Mrs. Mallard has actually never even realized that she is not completely free. When she is informed of her husband's death in a railroad accident, she weeps and then goes to her room to be by herself for a while. As she grieves, she looks out her window onto a beautiful spring day. Then she feels something coming towards her, an idea, a realization, something rather shocking. She is free.

Mrs. Mallard and her husband have not been especially unhappy. Their marriage seems to be solid, and Mrs. Mallard reflects that her husband is kind and loving and that she has sometimes loved him, too. Yet now she is free. She no longer has to submit to her husband's will, even though that will was never especially demanding or harsh. She can now live for herself and embrace her life on her own terms. She can start fresh and do what she wants to do without having to answer to anyone. Mrs. Mallard feels victorious as she embraces her new-found freedom.

Yet in another instant, Mrs. Mallard's delightful freedom is taken away. Her husband walks through the front door. The accident report is wrong, and he is very much alive. Mrs. Mallard cannot take the shock, and she falls dead.

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