The short story The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin reflects social life and social values dominated during the 19th century. The main character, Mrs. Mallard, is described a as vapid, passive and clinging woman. Chopin portrays and analyzes personal feelings of Mrs. Mallard, who lacks personal identity and suffers from ignorance of the world. In the short story, Chopin depicts that Mrs. Mallard lives in an iron cage created by her husband and the society. Thesis The short story vividly portrays historical epoch, social values and traditions dominated in society.
The settings of the story vividly reflect historical epoch and historical time. The idea of class runs through the short story as a remarkable feature real value of the old world, social traditions and class confrontations. During this period of time, women, like Mrs. Mallard, depend upon their families and marriage. The main categories of relationship in the short story could be termed: domestic, familiar, imaginary, deceitful and marital. Chopin writes: “It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband’s friend Richards was there, too, near her” (Chopin). In this situation, relationships of all kinds are very significant particularly as part of the heroine own development. The short story portrays that the women in the nineteenth century were members of a small but closely welded community that made its own social laws. “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance” (Chopin). Chopin portrays that family relations play a crucial role in destiny and life of Mrs. Mallard. She shows that this period of time dictates its own traditions: women are considered weak and helpless, narrow minded and feeble; they need counseling and family support.
The story vividly portrays social values and morals dominated in the society. The social standard that is set of morals, habits, and fashions forms in itself an ideal which a very vast number of people are constantly endeavoring to reach, and whatever may be the laws to which they have to conform, the influence of the social ideal is the main factor in governing their conduct and forming their ambitions. Men exercise an influence far in excess of that which the bare numerical strength of their class would justify. Friendship is clearly important in women’s lives, as can be judged from the following passage: “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” (Chopin). Chopin portrays that women can do nothing to change their life, because subconsciously they are used to be weak and helpless. They learn social values from their elders, but has their own views and expected to air them. Chopin expresses social criticism through the themes of marriage and a secondary role of women in family life. In the short story, Chopin symbolically compares a marriage with a “prison” underlining that only death of a husband helps the woman to be free.
The main ‘tradition’ dominated during this period of time was a negative attitude towards divorce and separation of spouses. Divorce was more difficult for a wife to obtain than it was for a husband. Divorce was not recognized as a solution to marital discord. Chopin writes: “When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under the breath: “free, free, free!” (Chopin). This remark shows that marriage survives on very strained terms. Even if the marriage is disastrous, for reasons much more important than an unruly household, it takes many years before the couple actually separates and lives in different houses. It is possible to say that arranged marriage were typical for this rime. It is possible to assume that marriage is probably the most cost-efficient antipoverty instrument a society possesses. Mrs. Mallard marriage is arranged, and like many other women she is unhappy, because she is suppressed by the norms and circumstances, her own narrow worldview and personal low spirits which make her dependant upon life situations. “And yet she had loved him–sometimes. Often she had not” (Chopin).
Nevertheless, she has to endure these relations because the marriage allows her to obtain social position and social status. Mrs. Mallard is a victim of social values and standards established and supported by the society. Mrs. Mallard’s isolation from normal life is reflected not only in the strange circumstances, but in melodramatic way of acting and speaking. “She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams” (Chopin). It is fitting that she should meet her death in melodramatic circumstances, as a victim of her own obsession with the past and social moors.
In sum, Chopin underlines that the marriage life leaves no space for personal development and self expression, and death of a husband becomes the only chance for Mrs. Mallard to survive illusions of marriage and happiness. As the most important, the short story vividly portrays historical epoch and social values through the lens of marriage life and secondary role of women in the society. The development of the main character reflects social limits of her status as a result of historical traditions and values. The evolution and changing role of the woman is forced by inner struggle and great desire to be free and happy at least one hour in her life.
Chopin, K. A Story of an Hour .n.d. 2007.