Short stories are a unique genre of writing because the meaning conveyed by the author should be expressed within a limited length. The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin is a perfect example of how symbolism can be used. The story raises a theme of an unhappy marriage as a way of a woman’s oppression, which prevents her from being happy and free. The piece of writing describes an hour in Mrs. Mallard’s life, which changes her life completely. She is going from thinking Mr. Mallard is dead, to realizing life without him, and finally realizing he is alive and well.
She is mistakenly informed that her husband was killed in a train crash, which comes as a shock to her first. However, even a more serious shock to her is her own thoughts and feelings after this news. She suddenly realizes that she feels relief and happiness because she does not have a husband now. The woman understands that she is free to do whatever she wants now and that her past life was just a cage for her. She is ashamed of feeling like this because her husband has always treated her properly, but she could not love him back. Mrs. Mallard feels a weight lift off her shoulder as if she became a freed bird, yet her husband who appears to be alive suddenly returns.
The woman has heart decease and cannot cope with it; however, as others think, she dies of happiness. The idea of a woman who is locked and imprisoned by her marriage is the key one throughout the story. A number of techniques are used by the author in order to convey this meaning. Thus, the setting of the story is arranged exclusively inside the house, which creates an impression that the woman is locked inside and has no opportunity to get outside. A window in her room is, in fact, the only connection with the big world, to which she has no access. Descriptions of the sky and clouds refer to feeling of space, which she lacks, and it also an implied comparison to her as a bird “some spots of blue sky would appear now and then through the clouds, and they would meet and pile one a top of the other as she could see them through her window” (Chopin 137).
It is understandable that the author uses the word “patches”, which suggests that Mrs. Mallard’s life is incomplete, that it consists of numerous small pieces, which do not make a single harmonious picture. However, this does not occur to her so strongly until she is informed about her husband’s death. The window is like a channel for her, and it is related to the feeling of hope which suddenly reveals to her. For the first time, it acquires a different, positive meaning, promising change. Therefore, figuratively speaking, the window is like a monitor for her, which broadcasts past, present and future.
When the woman realizes that her future can be bright now, even patches of the sky start looking promising. The author describes an empathy that Mr. Mallard has about her future: “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” (Chopin 138).
The expression “a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin 138) is, in fact, the description of her family life. The author demonstrates how people