It has aptly been observed that humans are lover of freedom, and seldom compromise on their liberty and independence. Somehow, being the follower of some religious faith, as well as part of one or more social establishments, they have to abide by the prevailing social norms, cultural values, religious beliefs, taboos, traditions and conventions, which bind them in one way or the other with the several socio-cultural ties, and hence adversely impose bar on their freedom of thought and action. The same is the case with the marital-knot that also implements restrictions on spouses by determining their rights and obligations towards one another. Though apparently the individuals feel rejoice on entering into matrimonial relationship, by taking it as the sign and symbol of complement, harmonizing and completeness; yet unconsciously they look for revolting against the limitations had been imposed upon them in the name of love and marriage. The same is the case with Louise, the protagonist of the story under analysis by Chopin.
Being the torch-bearer of feminist rights, renowned fiction-writer Kate Chopin has pointed out towards the drawbacks and constraints the woman folk has to undergo in the sacred name of home and marriage. Apparently, women are bestowed upon with financial support, protection, comforts and sexual gratification, after getting married, according to the prevailing socio-religious norms, yet in reality, they are confined within the boundaries described and determined by their husbands for the exercising of their talent, abilities and activities at large. There is no doubt in the very fact that they have developed emotional and sentimental bonds with their husbands, yet quite unconsciously they feel the suppression of their freedom inflicted by the males upon them. The same is the theme of the story, where the protagonist Mrs. Louise Mallard, the young lady as well as patient of depression and heart disease, bursts into tears as soon as her sister Josephine and her husband’s friend Richards mildly and indirectly break the news of her husband’s death in rail-road accident. She falls in Josephine’s arms, which throw light on her fear of being unprotected after the death of her sheltering tree i.e. Brently Mallard. (788). Hence, the author has supported the very idea that the male members of family (including fathers, husbands and brothers) are source of security, and an unseen sense of protection is attributed to them in respect of their women.
Even Louise is aggrieved on hearing the news about her husband’s death, yet she seeks sigh of relief while she is alone in her room. She opens windows and enjoys with the natural and social panorama outside the window pane. It looks that unbolting of window has wide opened new horizons of merriment, opportunities, successes and tranquility for her. (789). Even the street hawker’s voice appears to be pleasant and enjoyable to her. Chirping of birds, blowing breeze, swaying leaves and freely moving humans and other living creatures—all communicate one and the same message of liberty and independence to Louise. Thus, her sub-conscious pricks her mind that the marital-knot had tied her with the strings that were dependent of her husband for the slightest movement even. It is therefore, the depressing and painful death news gives her the message of release from the marriage prison.
Louise is so absorbed in the imagination of liberty, which she fantasizes in its full swing that she does not allow any external interference that could put her imagination in jeopardy even for the time being. It is therefore she turns the deaf ear to the Josephine’s appeals she makes to her for unlocking the door of her room. (790). By this she simply means the break the ray of sorrow Louise has been experiencing. However, it is not the case altogether, as Louise appears to be longing for a tranquil life for the future days to come. It is therefore on finding Brently alive, she cannot resist the charm of freedom she has just imagined and dreamed few moments before. Consequently, her heart collapses immediately, and she kicks the bucket subsequently. (790)
To conclude, it becomes evident that Chopin has portrayed the real picture of inner feelings the females contain. Being the pioneer feminist writer, she vehemently declares marriage as the symbol of life long slavery, which challenges the freedom of woman and confines her in the husband’s prison for years. It is the death of either of the life partner that gives woman the message of release from the jail; otherwise, her liberty is crushed under the chariot wheels of suppression and oppression from dawn to dusk everyday. The short story reveals the writer’s command on human psychology and also proves Chopin as one of the most prominent feminist writer of late nineteenth century.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Little Brown Handbook, Ninth Edition. New York: Pearson Longman, 2004. 788 – 790.