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"The Story of an Hour": Student Responses,
Students of Ann
Woodlief, Virginia Commonwealth University
When I first began reading "The Story
of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard seemed to me an old woman and as we are
told in the very first line, “afflicted with a heart trouble.” I
was surprised in the eighth paragraph when Chopin tells us that
"She was young," but even more interesting to me that she is described
as having “a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression” which
depicts her as being old for her age. The description of this repression
is backed up when Chopin gives us the reason for Mrs. Mallard’s
“monstrous joy” which reads thus “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.”
After reading through this story the first
time, I had many questions and many conclusions. For instance, it seems
as if Chopin is showing us a social situation of the times with the woman
as prisoner of her husband. It is common knowledge that marriages are not
always about mutual love between two people and during the time that Chopin
was writing, this was more often the case. Marriage was as much about monetary
comfort, social status and acceptance as it was about possible love. There
are no children mentioned in this story which makes me wonder if there
was a sexual relationship between the Mallards. It seems from the description
that Mrs. Mallard has been trapped in this marriage for a long time even
though we know she is young. How young is she? Even though I say she is
trapped, do not misunderstand me: I do not think this marriage is arranged,
instead that she has been coerced by her society to marry despite what
she may want to do in her heart and soul. I believe she does love her husband,
but it is possible to love a man and not be married to him. This was not
her case; if she were able (meaning a man would agree with her decision)
and she did engage in a loving relationship with a man who was not her
husband, she would have certainly been looked down upon. Is her heart condition
purely physical or is it also psychological and emotional? We know the
stereotypes, as Chopin did, that women are hysterical, timid, weak, irrational.
Could it be that her heart condition is created by those tip-toeing around
her in conjunction with her own emotional weaknesses?
I find it interesting that her first name
is only told to us after she hears of her husband’s death and when she
feels the most free. Before this point she is referred to as Mrs. Mallard
or “she,” and after this point when her husband returns home, she is referred
to as “wife.” Chopin is pointing to something very interesting here which
leads me back to the title of woman as “wife.” When Louise marries Bently
she becomes Mrs. Mallard; she loses her identity and assumes a new and
strange one. While it seems very normal and average for a wife to assume
her husband’s name in marriage and in that time, to put it harshly, become
the property of him, it cannot be ignored that a certain part of the self
is lost. This woman is very in tune with this loss and even though her
love for her husband keeps her from it, the freedom she feels when she
thinks he is dead becomes unavoidable and enjoyable.
Chopin wrote the story and has given us
a narrator who, if it is not Chopin personally, I believe to still be female.
The descriptions and insight we are given into the character of Louise
come from someone who understands her situation and is forgiving. We see
Louise as she finds happiness out of her husband’s death and yet, by the
narration, we see her struggle with guilt and overcome it. From the female
perspective, it could be argued that her death was really an ultimate freedom
from her unhappy marriage. If we assume that the narrator is male, could
it be that her death was a punishment for her happiness at the death of
her husband? It is not as farfetched as it seems and raises many more questions
as to the goal this story sets out to achieve.
|“The Story of an Hour” at first reminded
me of “A Very Short Story” in the way that it leaves out details that that
the reader needs to fill in the gaps and easily understand the plot of
the story. It’s this “Swiss cheese” effect that makes the story so interesting;
by allowing the reader to “plug in” his/her own details the story takes
on varied connotations. An example of this is the beginning paragraph where
the reader gets the impression that this woman is going to be extremely
upset that her husband has died in a train accident. The people closest
to her have gone to great lengths to cushion the blow of her husband’s
death; however, we are not given any details as to the relationship they
had in the past or any relevant information. By doing this the author allows
the reader to form his/her own false interpretation of how this woman is
going to react. We see this technique used early into the story and we,
as readers, are strung along until we hear the woman utter the words “free,
free, free” which really throws the reader off the track he/she expected
to follow. The rest of the narrative begins to twist the story to the exact
opposite of what the reader was waiting to have happen. We find a woman
who instead of being upset and heart-broken over her husband's death is
experiencing complete joy over the death of another human being. Which,
of course, now gives us the impression that she has been mistreated in
this relationship and that, perhaps, this death is for the best. All this
makes the reader justify the way the woman reacted, but in the end it's
Mrs. Mallard who dies upon seeing her husband alive and well. This ending
definitely conjures up some questions that are difficult to answer.
|This was a great story. I like Chopin
even though she is an ardent feminist. Through the first read several things
stood out. First you will notice how the woman of the story is simply referred
to as Mrs. Mallard--an appendage of Brently Mallard---then when she is
free she is referred to as Louise, her first name. Chopin is trying to
say that marriage represses women and "bends the will." Even if marriage
does bend the will Brently Mallard was still a good man, and his face never
looked upon her with anything but love. She knows that this man loved her,
but that is not enough for her to feel any love for him. Chopin does not
seem to think that a man’s plans and intentions are bent for a relationship.
Personally, I have never seen a working relationship that was totally one-sided.
It is great that such a short little story could raise so many questions
about the nature of relationships and what they mean to a woman like Chopin.
She considers any intention that bends the will a crime, even if it is
kind. There could be a thousand years of philosophical debate on that one
In the way of characters I think Richards
was an interesting character. His role seems so small, perhaps intentionally
so. Chopin is trying to show that women can get along just fine without
having men interfere. The major theme of the story represents a disdain
for the way that women are treated in some relationships, and to a certain
extent in society as well. It is hard for a male to give concrete examples
of a female's place in society having never dealt with that stereotype.
The late eighteen hundreds were a rough time for women and there weren’t
the options, like divorce, that are now available to women. However in
this story there is so much repression. You would think that this woman
had been locked in a basement and fed bugs by Brently.
|This is the story of a woman who finds
out her husband has died in a train wreck. She reacts with sadness at first,
but then realizes in a rush of emotion & relief that she is “Free!
Body and soul free!” She views the world with a fresh outlook--one where
she will be her own person, answering only to herself. She is ready to
begin this new life when her husband--who evidently wasn’t on the train
after all--comes home. The woman (Louise) dies from heart failure on the
I loved this little story--it takes a couple
of twists and turns that makes the ending ironic and unobvious. The year
the story was written (1894) is included, and this adds interest to the
content of the story. The fact that Louise recognizes her oppression from
the male-dominated society of the time is interesting to me. For some reason
(I don’t know why) I haven’t read much work in which a woman of the time
period speaks of feeling that a long life with her husband is undesirable.
But when she realizes her husband is dead, Louise’s view of a long life
changes from dread to hope.
Louise is obviously the character of interest--through
her we see the social repression that women felt at the time. Louise represents
all women of the time. They were locked into marriages that were probably
loving--at least Louise says her husband “never looked at her save with
love”--but were oppressive in their treatment of women.
The language of the story does a good job
at conveying the emotions and feelings of the characters. Although Louise
represents all women, she is different. Being told of Brently’s (her husband)
death, she “did not take the news as many women have.” The choice of many
is interesting. It shows that many women accepted (perhaps blindly) the
situation of being controlled in their lives by their husbands.
After being told the news of his death,
Louise goes to her room and looks out the window. The language here foreshadows
the ironic happiness that she feels at being set free. Instead of being
gloomy and dark (the way weather is usually symbolized at the mention of
death) the sky shows patches of blue (from between white, not black) clouds;
birds are singing and there is a “delicious breath of rain” in the air.
I can’t help but think that when Louise’s
sister is calling to her through the door--“open the door--you will make
yourself ill”--that she would believe Louise had made herself ill with
all the talk of freedom. When she finally opens the door and walks out
“like a goddess of Victory” I would think that her sister would notice
and wonder why.
When Brently returns, Louise drops dead.
We know that she had a weak heart--it was explained that the train accident
was explained carefully in order to prevent an adverse reaction--and the
doctors assume that she died at his sight from the “joy” of seeing him.
“The joy that kills” they called it. Those doctors, undoubtedly men, were
unwittingly describing Louise’s marriage as well.
|Chopin describes for us here a story of
great irony. She introduces to us Mrs. Mallard; we know she is a woman
with a heart condition and that she is unaware of her husband’s death.
We then meet her sister, Josephine, who is reluctant to be the bearer of
bad news. And also her husband’s friend Richards, whose significance in
the story seems very ambiguous to me. We learn that there has been an accident,
a railroad disaster, and that Mrs. Mallard’s husband, Brently, was deemed
“killed.” There had been two telegrams affirming this, thus eliminating
the possibility of an error. She immediately begins to grieve with “wild
abandonment,” shortly afterwards she seeks solitude. In her solitude, we
find her to be acutely aware of her surroundings and her senses, almost
as if a dark cloud has been lifted from her soul and she can now live life
to its fullest potential. For moments, we can see through her eyes, feel
her chest heaving and hear the birds chirping. She feels something that
she has forgotten she could feel. She is feeling the clouds being lifted
from her soul, she is illuminated, she is free. She is overwhelmed with
freedom, opening up her arms to welcome it, letting it envelope her body
and her soul. She remembers her husband with kind memories, memories of
time, memories that are now of the past. She is in the present and she
is free! Her sister is concerned with her solitude and inquires of her
well being. We learn that her name is Louise; she is no longer Mrs. Mallard,
she is Louise, she has her own identity because she is free. She is reveling
in her freedom, thinking of her freedom today and tomorrow, longing to
have a lengthy life of her own. She opens the door to her sister with a
sparkle in her eye and a new sense of herself. They descend the staircase
together, meeting Richards at the bottom. Someone is opening the door.
It’s Brently Mallard, unharmed and completely composed, unaware of the
transformation that has occured with his absence. We hear a scream from
Josephine and see Richards attempt to conceal the living dead from the
view of the heart patient. But it is too late. She is dead. Mrs. Mallard’s
heart stopped. Her life stopped. She had everything and nothing all in
the same moment.
This is a wonderful story, so well written
and descriptive that we can be Mrs. Mallard. The omniscience of the narrator
allows us this. We can see through her eyes, breathe through her lungs.
We desire what she desires. This makes the story. The setting is perfect.
She ascends the staircase to freedom, everything changes at the top of
the stairs. We descend the staircase with her and everything is taken away.
She dies of the joy that kills, irony to the end. Magnificent!
|This short story grabbed my attention
from the moment I finished the first sentence to the end of the story.
During the first few paragraphs I thought that she was very depressed and
saddened from hearing about her husbands death. Of course as soon as she
whispers the words “free, free, free!” I knew that she felt happy about
her husband’s death. I detect that no one else knew of these feelings of
contempt for husband but herself, or she would not have kept these feelings
inside of herself.
In the fifth paragraph, after just being
told of her husband's death, she is very descriptive of everything that
she sees at that moment, as if she wants to remember every detail of this
moment. But why would one point out “delicious breath of rain,” “notes
of a distant song,” and “sparrows were twittering in the eaves” at the
time of their spouse's death? When I think of these things that she is
describing they are happy scenes, scenes of serenity. This was my first
clue that there was more going on in this story than just someone who lost
Throughout the story you get the feeling
from the wife that she was probably controlled by her husband and that
their marriage was not a happy one at all. “The kind, tender hands folded
in death”; this statement shocked me at first when I read it. Because I
didn’t get the impression from her other comments that he was a kind and
tender man, as a matter of fact I thought the exact opposite of him. But
her next statement--”... the face that had never looked save with love
upon her, fixed and gray and dead”--this was more of how I pictured this
man to be. The words that she uses to describe him are very strong-- ”fixed,”
“gray,” “dead”--these words are very harsh. It was in the next couple paragraphs
of her describing her freedom that I began to feel very happy for her that
he was out of her life.
I think that it was very ironic for them
to use the word “joy” in the last sentence of this story, because it was
actual joy that she felt when she realized her husband was dead, and pain
so great that killed her when she saw him walk through the door.
|The first time I encountered this story,
it was read aloud to me in a class that I took this fall. I thought it
was most unusual, and I am glad I have the opportunity to read it now.
The story has many surprises, twists and turns, and in the end I had nearly
forgotten the poor dead husband, as I was happy for Mrs. Mallard’s release
from such an unhappy existence.
The first words that struck me as wonderful
in this story were in lines 3 and 4: “veiled hints that revealed in half
concealing.” What a beautiful way to describe breaking bad news. The words
“veiled” and “concealing” are used in a wonderful way in the same sentence.
I also like the description of the “storm of grief” Mrs. Mallard experiences.
Weeping with “sudden, wild abandonment” is such an apt description of this
emotion. So far I have not suspected that there is anything amiss with
Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to the news of her husband’s death. After all,
each and every human being has an intense range of emotions that are neither
right or wrong--they simply belong to that particular individual. I also
found nothing suspect in Mrs. Mallard retreating to her room--also perfectly
understandable. Here, however, alone in the privacy of her room, is where
the story started to turn for me.The description of what she saw when looking
out her bedroom window hit me as odd--I remember times in my own life when
overwhelming grief or shock has seized me. Nothing in the world looks right--certainly
not happy or pleasant. Yet, there were “trees that were all aquiver with
the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain . . . sparrows . . .
patches of bue sky . . . ” These things tell me that she is seeing her
life as now having a new look, and it seems to parallel the fresh, new,
earthy and upbeat sights out of her bedroom window. I like the description
of her emotional release when she sat “with her head thrown back upon the
cushion of the chair . . . ” The sob described here really indicated emotional
intensity--was she crying for joy, albeit guilty joy? “There was something
coming to her....” this passage almost says “fasten your seatbelts, readers.”
Mrs. Mallard has succeeded in gaining my sympathy here, as she is definitely
resisting her feelings--feelings that are coming upon her like a tidal
wave. I feel that she is really a decent, moral woman and wants to do the
right thing-- she wants to have THE CORRECT GRIEF REACTION. Finally she
accepts this reaction as being true--after all it has come upon her so
powerfully, how could it be anything but an honest feeling? It was refreshing
to see that her reasons for feeling this way were not because she was an
abused and mistreated wife--not even because she hated her husband (I think
she had tender feelings for him): she merely wanted time to herself! GO
MRS. MALLARD! I have the feeling that Mr. and Mrs. Mallard had been married
a while, and that she had felt “bound” by the restrictions of being in
a relationship and this was an “out” that was dropped into her lap, so
she’s gonna run with it. After all, she didn’t kill the man--it was Divine
Intervention! The last line of paragraph 14 is “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.” This says that it doesn’t matter that her
husband probably didn’t intend to be so controlling and needy--but the
effect upon her was the same.
I relate to this story not in that
I am a widow, but I have been divorced for five years after ten
years of marriage. I too reacted with grief when my marriage ended,
and I went through an incredible range of emotions. NOW, however,
I revel in my freedom and independence. Not that I had a horrible
marriage, but I did have to be part of a “couple” and there are
responsibilities that go along with that which do infringe upon
one’s freedom to establish her own identity. I was really sorry
that Mrs. Mallard did not get the chance to do this. She was swimming
in it--she was in overdrive imagining the possibilities about
being “free, free, free!” I don’t think she felt guilty about
it, nor should she have. She had loved him, yet what could love
have do do with the feeling she was having now? So what if she
loved him--he was dead but she was alive as she’d never been before
. . . maybe even on the road so wrapped up in this fantasy, planning
the rest of her life without her “ball and chain,” that when she
saw this “ghost” walk through the front door, it hit her ten times
harder than it might have had she not been adrift in her joy of
being “suddenly single.” This too tells me that both Mr. and Mrs.
Mallard must have been older people--there was a lot of history
between them, a lot of years, and I imagine that her heart might
have withstood the shock had she been a bit younger.
[Later response, same person (the
next semester in a women writers course)]: I understand and at
times tend to agree with the argument that the author’s biographical
information should stand apart from the work itself. In the case
of Chopin, however, I do find it necessary, perhaps imperative,
to incorporate her life experience into the meaning I gather from
her work. I believe the events in her life greatly influenced
her writing--from her father’s death in a railroad accident, when
she was five years old, to the time after the death of her own
husband. Chopin died young (44), yet she had twelve years of married
life and twelve years of widowhood packed into those forty-four
years. I find that interesting, and I feel it gave her a fair
perspective of life as the “other half” in a marriage, and life
as a woman alone. Chopin was another of the “pioneer feminists,”
daring to write that women could actually exist, thrive, sans
a man. She is credited with having the nerve to explore the sexual,
emotional, and intellectual needs, or the very existence of these
needs of women. That she had the fortitude to write about these
“taboo” issues with great integrity in a time when women could
only fantasize about equality, etc. is inspiring.
Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble is surely
two-fold--no doubt a physical defect exists, possibly exaggerated emotional
strain--heart trouble, the intangible variety, unhappiness, misery, the
sad state of one’s lot in life. Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble may have been
psychological as well as biological--one can literally make oneself ill
from worry, depression, etc. People do die of a broken heart.
Mrs. Mallard “did not hear” the story as
other women might--this shows how one-dimensional, clone-like women of
Mrs. Mallard’s time were: there was an expected, acceptable emotional response
for every life situation. Chopin makes an interesting commentary here about
the necessity for women to express themselves as individuals--in times
of joy, grief. I believe there was even a prescribed manner in which women
were allowed to “swoon”--not a drop-dead faint, but a slow, feminine form
|The things that I marked in the story
were the references to Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition. The very first paragraph
informs the reader of her heart trouble, and how her loved ones were so
careful and cautious while breaking the news to her of her husband’s death.
In paragraph 11, where Mrs. Mallard cries out “free, free, free!” her heart
condition is no longer an issue (to herself) since her husband is dead.
Her body is “warmed and relaxed.” At the end of the story, I found it ironic
how Mrs. Mallard’s loved ones took spontaneous and startling means to protect
her from the realization that her husband was indeed alive. They took little
care and caution regarding her delicate heart condition. I thought these
portions of the text were significant because there was some reference
to Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition throughout the text. Maybe I missed the
answers to these questions within the text, but I hope not. Why did Mrs.
Mallard dislike her husband so much, that she could rejoice and feel reborn
in his death? I guess that my reading experience could be categorized as
emotional. In the first few paragraphs, my feelings were those of sympathy
and pity for the sickly wife who just lost her husband. Around the eighth
paragraph I experienced a little confusion, “Is she happy that her husband
is dead?” At the eleventh paragraph I felt relief along with Mrs. Mallard.
I felt her freedom. At the beginning of the next to the last paragraph,
I felt nervous, anticipating the worst for Mrs. Mallard, that it would
be her husband opening the door. I could feel the disappointment when the
person opening the door was Mr. Mallard. After my first reading of the
text, I thought of a character in a very popular novel, Celie of Alice
Walker’s The Color Purple. When Celie was young her father impregnated
her and abused her. When he died, he left her his land and his house. Celie
mourned for the benefit of those around her, but when they were gone and
she was in the driveway of that house, she smiled and danced for joy. This
is quite similar to the reactions of Mrs. Mallard.
|My “first” response to this story is “I
like it.” That is because it is not my first time reading it. The first
time I read this story I was shocked by the ending and disappointed with
her view of marriage. At the time of my first reading of this story, I
was newly married and “high on love” so to speak. Therefore, I couldn’t
possibly believe that someone could look at love and marriage in such a
On reading the story this time around I
see a much more positive side to the story. I probably also see it a little
more objectively now. There are many signs of life in the story that represent
a re-birth of this young woman. Prior to her husband's death she dreaded
each day and was “pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her
body.” Now that he is dead she sees the potential for life (her life) with
phrases like “new spring life, breath of rain, and countless sparrows were
twittering in the eaves.” Most of the story deals with her quick accepance
of her husband's death and her quick acceptance of the new possibilities
for her own life and soul. The title of the story would seem to reinforce
this idea of quick acceptance. It indicates that her important transition
took place within one short hour. Normally people take months to fully
come to terms with the death of a family member. Mrs. Mallard, however,
is quick to put it all into perspective.
I think the location she has chosen to
deal with this transition is important. She is in her bedroom in a comfortable
armchair, which would seem to indicate she felt safe here. She seems to
have found a remedy to life, which is her husband's death. The ending this
time around is more ironic than shocking. She died because her potential
for unhappiness was still alive (her husband).
|This story is both humorous and is valuable
in a historical perspective. It is first a commentary on the feelings that
a woman trapped into marriage during this time period may have experienced.
Marriage may have seemed to be an interminable “trap” and the only “honorable”
way out for a woman may have been through death of her husband. This story
is ironic in that the narrator's death is attributed to being overcome
with great joy, when in fact she died of a combination of shock and disapointment.
I liked this story, and I think that despite the time that the story was
written, it is very easy to relate to. It also presents the way death can
encourage many different feelings at once. The narrator admits that she
will probably miss her husband, but she can also see the years of freedom
stretching into the future.
|I have read this story before so my first
reading is actually a second or third reading. If I remember correctly
my first response to it was amusement at the irony of the whole thing.
I can understand how a woman can feel free from the husband that she has
been with for a long time. He wasn’t bad to her, but all she was known
as was Mrs. Mallard. I noticed that everyone had a first name at the beginning
of the story except for Mrs. Mallard. It was not until her husband's supposed
death that we find out her name is Louise. It’s like a spiritual freeing
of the woman that was caged behind the man. Obviously she felt free because
she said it over and over. “And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often
she had not. What did it matter! 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! 'Free! Body and soul
free!' she kept whispering.” There were certain words that I saw that lent
themselves to the mood of the story. “She did not hear the story as many
women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance.
She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms.
When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone.
She would have no one follow her.” The storm of grief that overcame her
eventually led to “a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed
to reach into her soul.” I think that everyone has experienced the feeling
of being totally emotionally drained after dealing with something that
was probably too much to handle in the first place. After you relax for
a bit, there is a peaceful calm that slowly takes over your body and you
feel totally at ease. At least I do. I think the mere fact that the situation
is over lends itself to the feeling of freedom and the feeling that a terrible
burden has been lifted off your shoulders. For Louise, being Mrs. Brently
Mallard was a burden. Many women feel oppressed and overshadowed by their
husbands. It is not necessarily something that the husband has done, it
is just the personality of the woman who cannot be caged. Her storm of
grief turned calm and suddenly “Her fancy was running riot along those
days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days
that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long.
It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be
long.” The blue sky peeked through the storm and turned into the longing
for days filled with sunshine and light. She wanted to live long and prosper
on her own when just the day before she didn’t really want to prolong her
life. I can throw some Emerson in here too because she was totally content
within herself. She was ready for a long and happy life by herself. When
her husband was alive, these feelings of hers were dead.
|I’ve read a few other things by Kate Chopin,
and “The Story of an Hour” fits into the body of her work very neatly.
She foreshadows the end of the story blatantly, and if you’re at all familiar
with her work, the ending is no surprise. It would be fitting that her
supposedly dead husband’s return (safely) to the house would trigger her
death, since she is, after all, “afflicted with a heart trouble.” Once
she’s got her mind set on being “free” from her husband, she is completely
unprepared to deal with being imprisoned behind him once again. Some words
that caught my attention were especially in the second paragraph, with
“broken,” “veiled,” “revealed,” and “half concealing.” Another item that
caught my eye was that her husband was “leading the list of ‘killed’,”
when he was, in reality, “far from the scene of the accident, and did not
even know that there had been one.” Things that surprised me: she’s “young”
but “afflicted with a heart trouble.” If she’s young, would she have had
time to even feel imprisoned by her marriage? “And yet she had loved him--sometimes.
Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery
. . . ” If she’s young, why did she marry him if not for love? I suppose
there isn’t room to address all of these issues in one short story. Perhaps
Chopin is addressing the fact that not everyone at this time married for
love--“The unsolved mystery”--is it unsolved because the woman doesn’t
know what it is? She hasn’t felt it. She seems to never have loved this
man that is her husband. She loves her new-found hour-long freedom, but
not her own husband? Finally, “heart disease--of the joy that kills”--what’s
that all about? Joy that kills? She’s happy to have him back? Is that what
the doctor thinks? She’s heartbroken because her freedom was all imaginary,
only an hour long. Is that what killed her? That’s been bothering me ever
since I read it, which is, I suppose, the author’s intent.
|As I read this story, I noticed there
was a definite juxtaposition of woman and man. I found the character of
Richards unnecessary. Simple exposition through Josephine could have easily
explained the accident. While I’m on the subject of Richards--why was he
“near” Mrs. Mallard? I don’t think it was entirely innocent because he
had waited to “assure” himself of the husband’s death. What odd diction.
The passage with Mrs. Mallard staring off out of the window of her room
was the most significant in my opinion. The reason why is because the natural
world (i.e., the blue patches of sky peeking out through the clouds, the
tops of trees all aquiver, the breath of rain, etc.) mirrors Mrs. Mallard’s
feelings. The world breaks open with new, spring life, just as Mrs. Mallard’s
new life is about to begin. The phrase “a little whispered word escaped
her slightly parted lips” is wonderful. “Free” is a very appropriate word
to “escape” one’s lips. When Mrs. Mallard and Josephine descend from the
top of the stairs to meet the two men, I couldn’t help but laugh. It seems
that the women had to come down to the level of the men . . . kind of a
descent into hell sort of thing . . . maybe I’m reading too much into it
. . . did anyone else pick up on that? A major gap that I picked up on
was the husband’s reaction to his wife’s death. I keep thinking that if
Chopin had showed us a little more in that scene, that perhaps he, too,
would feel “free.” I noticed, also, that Richards, who thinks himself the
most tender, careful friend, doesn’t help out while Louise is upstairs.
It’s her sister who helps her. Richards is downstairs twiddling his thumbs
. . . yea, real tender, careful guy . . . so careful in fact that he fails
in his final attempt to shield the sight of the husband from Mrs. Mallard.
Also, the husband’s death was mentioned in one paragraph, but Louise’s
journey of freedom took up the majority of the story. Definitely a woman-power
story (for lack of a better term).
|I have read this story before. It’s one
of my favorites. I don’t view Louise’s reaction to her husband’s death
as a wrong way to react. Of course back in the 1800’s, the cultural “norm”
was for a woman feel tremendously grievous, and distraught over the death
of her husband. Back in those days a woman’s worth was primarily based
on who she was married to.
I don’t think Louise was necessarily happy
her husband died. At the beginning of the story after she learned of his
death it says, “She wept at once with sudden, and wild, abandonment in
her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself, she went away
to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.” That doesn’t spell
out joy to me. I think she went into her room not knowing what to feel.
While she was in there “soaking in” her environment she began to realize
certain things. One monumental thing was that life was moving on despite
her husband’s death. When I say that, I’m referring to the mentioning of
“the new spring life, the delicious breath of rain, the street caller,
the open window, the open square.” Ultimately she decided to view her husband’s
death as an opportunity to become a part of that life in ways that she
never had before.
Well, as we all know, Louise’s husband
did not die. I think the irony of the ending is what ties the story up
so well. She didn’t have a heart attack when she heard of his death, she
had one when she saw him alive. The narrator wants the reader to believe
that she died of disappointment at seeing her husband alive. I’m going
along with that. I also don’t think she died of joy either. It’s obvious
that the narrator believes that the other characters thought she died of
the “joy that kills.” Chopin does an excellent job at convincing the reader
that the other characters were clueless. She died of shock. Can you imagine
finding out that your spouse is dead, and accepting it one way or the other,
and then seeing that they are actually alive? Regardless of your feelings
for them, it's going to affect you tremendously. Unfortunately, Louise’s
heart could not handle the shock.
Just out of curiosity. . . does anyone
have any ideas about what the title of the story suggests? What about the
idea that Louise may have died of guilt? Maybe she thought her husband
was actually a ghost. She did scream when she saw him.
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