Why did we choose this story?”The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, published in 1895, is about a female protagonist who finally feels free after receiving the information about her husband’s death.Kate Chopin explores themes such as emancipation and the independence of women.
It was written in a time period where women were supplementary to men in opportunities as well as in status, because men dominated women’s lives since they had no rights. Within the story, Chopin shows that some married women are not as happy as they seem and felt more like property owned by their husbands in the 1800s. This gets conspicuous when Mrs. Mallard silently whispers “free, free, free!” because the death of her husband brings her her freedom and sets her free as an independent woman. The main character Louise Mallard suffers from heart problems, thus everyone treats her carefully. Her sister Josephine and a family friend, called Richard, discover that Mr.
Mallard was killed in an accident and after that, they try to break the news gently to his wife. To process her husband’s death, with a series of emotions, she locks herself into her own room and contemplates the view out of her window. Although she loved him, a sense of relief and freedom comes over her. While Josephine keeps trying to check on her, she finally comes out of her room and subsequently they decide to go downstairs. At the same time, her husband, Brently Mallard, enters the house whereat Mrs. Mallard dies caused by a shock because he is still alive and therefore this means giving up her freedom. Physical setting: PlaceThe basic story takes place within a house, which is likely to be the Mallards’ household.
Since there are stairs inside, it contains more than one floor and internal doors are equipped with locks. Mrs. Mallard has her own room in which a “comfortable, roomy armchair” (Chopin, 1895) is placed, facing the open window. Physical setting: TimeThe entire story takes place within an hour.
Therefore there is a limited amount of time for characters to go anywhere or do anything. An open square and the trees in front of her house give a lively effect to the current spring time. The blue sky is partly hidden by clouds and the air filled with a breath of rain. The story is set in the late 19th century, the Victorian era, where an extreme social inequality existed. The women’s role was limited to giving birth to children and being the housewife. Furthermore, women had no legal say and were not allowed to vote.
In case of a divorce, the property of the woman was taken by her husband.Emotional settingThe Story of an Hour deals mainly with Mrs. Mallard’s condition while she is processing her husband’s death. The characters, who are surrounding her, treat her carefully because of her medical condition. After being told about the recent accident, she reacts with obvious grief, leaves her sister alone to lock herself in her own room and to process her husband’s death. Her physical exhaustion and motionless body lead to a sensation of tension and fear. After she tries to drive the unknown feeling of freedom back, she starts getting excited, which gets apparent in her increasing pulse beat and relaxation of every part of her body. (Chopin, 1895)The more time she spends alone, the stronger her sensation of freedom and independence becomes.
For the first time a feeling of relief, that she can finally live for herself, overcomes her. While Louise is observing the outside of the house, she reaches energy through “drinking an elixir of life through that open window” (Chopin, 1895). Mrs. Mallard is uncertain if she ever loved Mr. Mallard. Full of delight she finally steps out of her room and the minute Mr.
Mallard enters the house, an enormous shock overcomes her. By entering the front door he takes her freedom away and she dies caused by the shock. However, due to her death, she wins her freedom back. (Chopin, 1895)Impact on other elementsThe settings in “The Story of an Hour” influence the theme of independence and emancipation. Mrs. Mallard was not even sure she loved her husband. However, she was forced into the marriage because it was common to be a mother and housewife of a man, during the 19th century. Her emotional development through the story demonstrates the urge for independence of women.
Besides, the setting also clarifies the conflict of Louise Mallard vs society, which forms the main conflict: she knows that she is suppose to feel comfortable being married but she lingers after freedom.