The Story of an Hour - Freedom by Death

"The Story of an Hour " - Freedom by Death

10/13/14

English 102 - Professor Stepp

"It is a sad fact that 50 percent of marriages in this country end in divorce, but hey the other half end in death. You could be one of the lucky ones. " Richard Jeni
Louise Mallard is an intelligent woman that understands the “right” way for women to behave. When her sister announces that her husband Brently has died, Louise cries dramatically rather than feeling numb, as she knows many other women would. Her reaction immediately shows that she is an emotional, demonstrative woman.
Louise’s weeping about Brently’s death highlight the dichotomy between sorrow and happiness. She continues weeping when she is alone in her room, although the crying now is more a physical reflex than anything . From the window, Louise sees blue sky, fluffy clouds, and treetops. She hears people and birds singing and smells a coming rainstorm. Everything that she experiences through her senses suggests joy and spring and most importantly a new life. And when she ponders the sky, she feels the first hints of elation. Once she fully indulges in this excitement, she feels that the open window is providing her with life itself. The open window provides a clear, bright view into the distance and Louise’s own bright future, which is now unobstructed by the demands of another person. It’s therefore no coincidence that when Louise turns from the window and the view, she quickly loses her freedom as well.
Chopin suggests that all marriages, even the kindest ones, are inherently oppressive. Louise, who readily admits that her husband was kind and loving, nonetheless feels joy when she believes that he has died. Her reaction doesn’t suggest any malice, however, despite the love between husband and wife, Louise views Brently’s death as a release from oppression. She never names a specific way in which Brently oppressed her, hinting instead that marriage in general stifles both women and men.
The heart trouble that afflicts Louise is both physical and symbolic. It represents her ambivalence toward her marriage and unhappiness with her lack of freedom. When Louise reflects on her new independence, her heart races, pumping blood through her veins. When she dies at the end of the story, the diagnosis of “heart disease” seems appropriate because the shock of seeing Brently was surely enough to kill her. But the doctors’ conclusion that she’d died of overwhelming joy is ironic because it had been the loss of joy that had actually killed her.
Brently’s death gave her a glimpse of a new life, and when that new life is swiftly taken away, the shock and disappointment kill her.