The Story of An Hour Essay Example

Although the benefits of marriage are indisputable, society perpetuates gender roles that are largely reflected in the domestic lives of couples. Though this reality was true several centuries ago, it applies to life in the 1900’s, and still applies today.  A woman’s femininity was once tied to her willingness to yield and be the lesser.  To be a good wife was to be a modest and passive creature bound to the atrocity of household labor.  Kate Chopin, an American author in the 1800s, made a living on exposing these detrimental aspects of marriage.  Her feminist opinions, clearly outlined in her literature, opened the eyes of the public to what it was actually like to be a wife and a woman in a marriage.  Chopin’s short stories, “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm”, view marriage in a negative light because they describe it as restrictive and devoid of emotion, but differ in the perspective of experiencing freedom.

Various religions view marriage as another opportunity for women to completely submit to the commands of men.  In “The Story of an Hour”, the main character, Mrs. Mallard, wishes for nothing but independence.  Her wish is granted when she is informed of her husband’s death.  Mrs. Mallard, who had been trapped in the prison of marriage, stated, “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” (“The Story of an Hour” 2).  Shockingly, Mrs. Mallard rejoiced at her husband’s demise because she finally possessed herself after years of enduring a confining marriage.  Now that her husband no longer sends her needs and requests to the back-burner, Mrs. Mallard was allowed to bring a new purpose to her life.

“The Story of an Hour” is comparable to “The Storm” because both main characters, Mrs. Mallard and Calixta, undergo feelings of entrapment in their marriages.  In “The Storm”, Chopin utilizes symbolism to describe how marriage has put limits on Calixta.  “Adjoining was her bedroom, with Bibi’s couch alongside her own.  The door stood open, and the room with his white, monumental bed, its closed shutters, looked dim and mysterious” (“The Storm” 4).  Chopin used words such as closed and mysterious to get the reader to understand how the wife views her husband and their matrimony as a whole.  The fact that the room feels strange to Calixta means that the husband and wife do not love each other unconditionally as all spouses should.  Calixta acknowledges the flaws in her relationship and feels the need to seek love outside of her marriage because of the rift between them.

Marriage was a serious commitment in years past and was often found to be lacking in excitement and intimacy.  In “The Story of an Hour”, Mrs. Mallard places her feelings, or lack thereof, for her recently deceased husband. “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!” (“The Story of an Hour” 2).  When she first receives the news, Mrs. Mallard is distraught in front of her family because she knows how she is supposed to react.  It is then revealed that she is secretly overjoyed at the thought of living alone in freedom.  The death of Mrs. Mallard’s husband triggered an enormous amount of feelings that lay dormant for years inside their virtually loveless marriage.

Mrs. Mallard’s inert marriage mirrors Calixta’s marriage because both women experience moments of extreme emotion that take place when their husbands fail to meet their physical and emotional needs.  “The Storm” perfectly illustrates what happens when a woman's needs are not met.  The tempest raging on outside of the home is similar to the whirlwind of emotions the main character feels within her heart.  Calixta was finally allowed to unleash the feelings deep inside of her, but those feelings could only be expressed to her true love.  “They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms.  She was a revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber; as white as the couch she lay upon.  Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing the first time its birthright, was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world” (“The Storm” 6).  Calixta and her husband do not connect in the same way that she connects with her lover.  The husband and wife were never compatible to begin with and that has forced Calixta to seek fulfillment outside of her idle marriage.

Disgruntled and imprisoned in unhappy marriages, women begin to seek out extramarital contentment.  Chopin clearly believes that women are tied down to their significant others when in a marriage.  In “The Story of an Hour” Mrs. Mallard is greatly relieved now that her husband is gone as she roars, “‘Free!  Body and soul free!’ she kept whispering… 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 Story of an Hour” 2).  Mrs. Mallard was allowed to experience freedom in her marriage now that her spouse was no longer alive to dictate what she will do and how she will do it.  She realized that her journey in life was to follow her own path of possibilities from then on.  After it was brought to her attention that her husband is living, she expired along with her thoughts of a pleasurable future.  

Extramarital contentment can refer to a number of actions.  For Mrs. Mallard, it was all about becoming her own woman and setting out to suck the marrow out of life.  For Calixta, she preferred to have an affair with her previous lover to feel liberated in her marriage.  At the end of the encounter, all seems well with Calixta both in her heart and in the physical world.  “The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.  The rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems.  Calixta, on the gallery, watched Alce ride away.  He turned and smiled at her with a beaming face; and she lifted her pretty chin in the air and laughed aloud” (“The Storm” 7).   Calixta extricates herself by having an extramarital affair with her former flame.  “The Storm” is a unique story about a woman who freely expresses her sexuality, receives no retribution, and remains married.

Chopin opted to disgrace and scandalize the existence of toxic marriages by revealing the damage it does to women’s abilities to be self-sufficient.  She acknowledged that marriages did not take place between two soulmates in the 1800s.  Desperate times called for desperate measures so marriage was originally designed to be a cold transaction amid strangers.  Many women wedded men so they could depend on them financially.  Couples determined to cohabitate saw their nuptials as a clever economic decision.  However, Chopin educated society on what transpires when two individuals wed for all of the wrong reasons.  Chopin’s short stories, “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm”, differ on their views of how to experience independence in marriage, but do agree that marriage is oppressive and lacking in intimacy.



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