Written at a time when feminism was not even a word, Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour” is one of the first feminine literary works in history,  and has been critical to the rise of feminism throughout history. The story tells us about a woman who had recently lost her husband and portrays the various emotions felt by the protagonist during this ordeal. 

The protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, was a tragic hero that many women could relate to and understand at a deeper level. In this story, the author uses imagery and empathy to show the protagonist’s feelings of grief, anger, happiness, and a sense of freedom. “Free! Body and soul free!” Kate Chopin’s ‘Story of an Hour’ uses themes such as freedom, marriage, and feminism to write an intriguing story that tells the readers about the inner struggles of women during the 19th century. 

Mrs. Mallard, a woman living in the patriarchal late 1800s married to a man named Brently Mallard, is imprisoned in the same place she calls home. The protagonist’s situation turns Mrs. Mallard into a tragic hero to be sympathized with by the readers. The story begins with Mrs. Mallard hearing about the news of her husband’s unfortunate demise.

The demise of a loved one is a devastating and somber event for any individual and feelings of grief and sadness are expected from Mrs. Mallard. The story takes an interesting turn when instead of grieving for the loss of her husband, Mrs. Mallard focuses more on her freedom and begins to dream of a brighter future.

“Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own .”At this point in the story, the reader is allowed to make many assumptions about the protagonist’s past, and these assumptions prove vital towards the reader’s understanding of the story.

It is safe to assume that Mrs. Mallard felt controlled in her marriage and didn’t have a lasting relationship with her husband. A point to note is that she was unsure about her feelings about her husband. “And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter!”

Perhaps this uncertainty had made her avoid the confusing feeling of love and instead embrace the sense of freedom felt due to her husband’s death. Marriage is an important theme in this story, making many readers relate to it. ‘Story of an hour’  was published in 1894, a time when many women felt trapped in their marriage. This formed a much deeper connection between the reader and the story and also promoted themes such as freedom and feminism within the story.[12] 

Freedom is a basic human right that seems trivial to many of us today. We all deserve it, but many have been snatched of this freedom. Mrs. Mallard has lived a depressing and trapped life and this suppressed life leads her to search for her freedom. One of the main points that shape a tragic hero, is that they deserve a fate greater than their own. Mrs. Mallard is a character that had her freedom stolen from her, which makes readers empathize with the character in the form of a tragic hero. As said by Moshe Dayan, “Freedom is the oxygen of the soul.”

The need for freedom makes Mrs. Mallard focus on this sense of liberty that arose from her husband’s death. As a woman living in the 19th century, Mrs. Mallard has a limited amount of freedom, which makes the somber event of her husband’s death into an opportunity for her to gain freedom. “Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her.” The story follows an interesting turn of events as the protagonist goes from feeling grief to finding “monstrous joy’ upon her newfound freedom. When the protagonist finally comes to peace with her feelings, Kate Chopin delivers another twist, and Mrs. Mallard goes through peripeteia when she finds out her husband hasn’t died and this highly anticipated freedom was once again snatched from her.

The story ends as Mrs. Mallard experiences a heart attack upon the sudden shock of seeing her husband. It could be said that Mrs. Mallard gained freedom from life and in my opinion, death proves to be a better fate for her, as going back to the oppressed life after gaining her freedom would have been a torturous event for Mrs. Mallard.

In conclusion, Kate Chopin’s ‘Story of an hour’ uses themes such as freedom, marriage, and feminism to create a captivating story that leaves a lasting impression on the readers. The story portrays Mrs. Mallard in the form of an Aristotelian tragic hero who can be sympathized with by the readers. It creates a story that can be related to the readers as many women in that period experienced the same feelings of suppression and captivity.

This story shows how a woman dreamt of her freedom, but fate had something else in store for her, and instead of gaining freedom from her husband, she gained freedom from life itself. “The Story of an Hour” is one of the first feminine works in history and portrays a captivating and tragic tale of a woman who wanted freedom.

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