The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
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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 implication and symbolism can make writing layered. 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 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 exultation of 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 atop of the other as she could see them through her window (Chopin). It is remarkable 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 epiphany 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).
The expression “a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” is, in fact, the description of her family life. The author demonstrates how people tend to unconsciously crash human beings, which seem to be the loved ones. Possession instead of love is similar to a fate of a caged bird, who longs for freedom. The bitter irony about the situation that the woman does not realize how unhappy she is until she has a real thought of living without her husband.
The author does not expose why she stays with her husband and why there is no way out of the situation. The most probable option is that, in the epoch described by Chopin, women were totally dependent on men and could hardly cope without them financially and socially. However, the theme is more complex than that because even when women have an opportunity to leave their husbands, many of them prefer not to do it. This is a point about human nature and the nature of human relationships, which the author addresses. In fact, it is often impossible for a person to break up because they are attached to another person by a whole range of controversial feelings, which make the situation chaotic. Thus, it is clear that the woman feels guilty about her attitude to her husband, which is suggested by the phrase “a monstrous joy”. This phrase reflects a controversy that she has about the situation: she realizes that she has to feel sorrow, but she feels happy instead.
In conclusion, the story by Kate Chopin gives a glimpse of emotional life that a woman has, which is triggered by an extreme situation. The theme of an unhappy marriage as a burden is not presented by the author in a straight-forward way. Instead, she prefers implications and symbolism, which also suggests that human motivation can be very complex. Unfulfilled potential as a woman and a personality is something that makes further life unbearable for the main character, so her death symbolizes a crash of hopes and expectations.
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