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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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Which places in "The Story of an Hour" are essential to Louise's freedom?

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As well as the private sanctuary of Mrs. Mallard's bedroom where she is comforted in her own armchair that embraces her while she looks out the symbolic open window, there is certainly a significance to the stairway that Mrs. Mallard ascends alone and later descends with her sister.

When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

Mrs. Mallard ascends alone the stairs, rising in hope and leaving her repressed life below.  As she contemplates her new freedom in the privacy of her room, her sister Josephine kneels outside the closed door "with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission." But, Mrs. Mallard has shut out her past life as she focuses upon new opportunities:

...she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

After some time in which Louise Mallard envisions a new, more authentic life for herself, she feels empowered and, thus, ready to deal with the details of burying her husband and living a new life. "With a feverish triumph in her eyes," Louise opens the door to Josephine and with her descends the stairs as a person renewed in freedom and hope. 

...she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs.

However, the door opens and her husband, Bentley Mallard enters; then, tragically, Mrs. Mallard dies of "the joy that kills."

It is, thus, the stairway that frames the sixty minutes of joy and hope for Mrs. Louise Mallard.  As she ascends, Mrs. Mallard sheds her repressed life and looks at the "blue sky" of the future as only Louise Mallard, having closed the door on others who would interfere with her grasp of this freedom.  Once confident in her future of freedom from repression, the victorious Louise Mallard begins to descend the stairs, but, unwittingly she descends instead into the old life of repression as Bentley Mallard appears, and this deprivation of newly-realized freedom is too much for her spirit to bear.

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Setting plays an important role in Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," because Louise connects her feelings of freedom with a particular place.  The first place she rushes on hearing the news of her husband's death is "facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair."

She needed to be able to look out into the natural world, and see all the possibilities that now lay before her, such as "the open square before her house [where] the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life."  The wide, open world called to her from that window.  The reader senses that in the past Louis may have gazed out the window to the square, with feelings of resentment, like a creature trapped.  Now, upon hearing the news of her husband's death, she gazes "off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky," hopeful and excited about the possibility of living her life for herself. 

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