15 February 2015
Louise Mallard: Estranged Housewife of “The Story of an Hour”
“The Story of an Hour” author Kate Chopin declares war against the idea of the happy wife. Within the pages of the short story, Chopin unravels a plot of pure stupor, only to have the happiness quickly terminated. Accurately portraying Mrs. Louise Mallard, the protagonist, Kate Chopin uses one point of view, that of an omniscient third person narrator, so that she may paint the perfect portrait. As the story unfurls, Chopin’s character portrait of Louise Mallard renders a broken, sickly woman with a vendetta against the contented life of the wife. Kate Chopin, author of “The Story of an Hour,” uses her words to fashion a woman named Mrs. Louise Mallard as an estranged housewife with the will to fly from oppressors.
Kate Chopin, author of “The Story of an Hour,” creates a disturbed, sickly wife who is not content with her home life. “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death,” (653). Within the opening line, the reader learns many things. Chopin asserts the fact that Mrs. Mallard has a heart condition, creating the attribute of a sickly wife. Chopin also presents the reader with a tidbit of information: that Mrs. Mallard’s husband is dead by a train accident. As the plot continues on, Chopin reveals to readers that Mrs. Mallard “did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance.” (653). Chopin is suggesting that Louise Mallard may have some psychological problems since she cannot naturally process the information just presented to her. Instead of being “paralyzed,” Mrs. Mallard “wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.” (653) Kate Chopin could be portraying Mrs. Mallard as a deranged woman without the proper capability to acknowledge a tremendous loss, only with the ability to acknowledge her selfishness of the presumed “abandonment.” Louise Mallard then walks up to her room, requesting for “no one [to] follow her.” (653). “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach her soul.” (653) Through the portrait of the serene chair, Chopin creates a scene in which the reader can assume that Louise has received much more comfort from the armchair than that of her late husband. Louise Mallard is not grieving normally, which can be assumed through the calm demeanor she presents, and eventually the joy, that she portrays while sitting in her chair. There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.” (653). Only a few sentences later, we learn what Louise was feeling. “When she abandoned herself, a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said if over and over under her breath: ‘free, free, free!’” (654). Mrs. Mallard remains this happy throughout the story, even when her sister Josephine assumes she is distraught. It is not until Mr. Brently Mallard “enter[s], a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella,” (654) that her stupor dissipates. Following the entrance of Brently, Josephine, Louise’s sister, has a “piercing cry” (654), and Richards, Brently Mallard’s best friend, tries to shield Brently from Louise, but to no avail. “When the doctors came, they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.” (654).
“The Story of an Hour” author Kate Chopin opens her story with the omniscient third person narrator acknowledging “[…] Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble […]” (653). The acknowledgement of Louise’s sickness creates the