Story of an Hour
Over the years, women have been placed in such positions where they feel trapped because of societal expectations. This has made them feel that they would be sinning if they were to divert from these expectations. Some have been influenced by religion where they feel as if they would be going against God if they defied the man. Others have however been entrapped by the culture that has been passed through generations. Women have been silenced to the point where suffering in silence becomes the norm rather than the exception. Chopin’s story, “The Story of an Hour” dramatizes the theme that domesticity saps a woman’s spirit and physical strength.
Right from the beginning of the story, Mrs. Mallard is presented as a fragile woman, who has to be treated in a delicate manner. Those around her are sensitive to her needs and they take great care in how they treat her. She immediately shows her sorrow as she cries freely upon hearing the news of her husband’s death. As the story progresses however, the reader understands the genesis of her weakness. It begins when she realizes that she has the opportunity to live again. She is exhausted physically and this exhaustion haunted her; meaning that she always, felt exhausted regardless of the time. This was despite the fact that she was a young woman. As she sits alone in her room, she reflects upon the new life and the thought of life she envisions without her husband brings a smile on her face. For the first time, in a long time, she can hear sounds other than her thoughts, she sees sights that seemed oblivious to her and she even notices new smells (Chopin, 2000).
Although she is described as having a “fair and calm face”, Chopin notes that her face also had “lines of repression” and she had a “dull stare in her eyes” (Chopin, 2000). Though she felt a sense of freedom, she was too afraid to hope and this fear engulfed her. She felt her freedom disappear even before she had begun to enjoy it. It was as if she was having a premonition that she would not get her freedom though it seemed so near. She is full of terror and her face is blank because she does not know where to begin. The reader cannot help but feel sorry for her when she finally mounts up the courage to say that she is free. She repeats that she is free three times (Chopin, 2000) and this shows the bondage that she must have felt. Her heartbeat becomes stronger and the nervousness that she felt disappeared.
For someone to feel such overwhelming emotion, it shows that she lived her life without any expectations that she would one day know a better life. Mrs. Mallard lived for her husband and she did not know much about living for herself. Her husband was powerful and he controlled her. She felt oppressed under her husband’s persistent will and to her, it did not matter whether he was being kind or cruel since she always felt the same oppression (Chopin, 2000). The oppression she felt was not only physical but she also felt it in her soul. She had suffered in silence for all these years and she would not disclose her problems to anyone, even her sister.
Part of domesticity is to maintain one’s marriage and home at all costs. Mrs. Mallard maintained her home in the best way she knew how, by not exposing her problems to the rest of the world. The fact that she had hidden her problems so well from her sister shows, how secretive she was supposed to be. Problems that were experienced in marriage were supposed to remain in marriage or be resolved there and nothing was supposed to be revealed to the others. Her sister Josephine thought that she was making herself ill with grief when she locked herself in. even with a sign of victory in her eyes, she would not let her sister know that she had regained her strength and she held her wais, probably for support, as they went back down stairs.
Chopin, K. (2000). The story of an hour. Logan, IA: Perfection Learning.