Research Paper on ‘The Story of an Hour’ by Kate Chopin

Published 27 Feb 2017

The story seems to ask the question that Why Mrs. Mallard dies at the end of the story? Is it really because of the ‘joy that kills’? The purpose of this research paper is to discuss the reason behind the protagonist’s sudden demise. I would like to put forward my point of view and what the author would have said to understand the cause of Louise’s death.

In ‘The Story of an Hour,’ Louise’ initial reaction to the news of her husband’s death is to weep suddenly and wildly. But when she is alone in her room, she sits on a comfortable armchair staring at the open window: of the trees with new spring life, the air-breathing wonderfully of rain, a peddler crying his wares on the street below, the notes of a far-away song, numerous sparrows chirping in the eaves and bits of blue sky not covered by clouds. All these images of life reveal the vitality of her and her love for life.

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Louise knows that she will weep again when she sees her husband’s ‘kind and tender hands folded in death’ and who has always looked at her with her. However she also knows that most often she did not love her husband. This shows that there was lack of love in her marriage. We understand that her husband was kind and tender and loved her very must, but she may not have loved her husband wholeheartedly. Also she realizes: ‘What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!’Kate Chopin). She realizes that love, the unsolved mystery is not significant as compared her self-assertion which she now posses.

Sitting in the armchair, she continuously repeats the word ‘free,’ which means that with the news of Mr. Mallard’s death, she feels a sense of freedom. Louise is a young woman. She is joyous that she can live the rest of her life for her alone. I think that the character felt subjugated and dominated in her marriage This line shows her sentiment: ‘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. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination’, (Kate Chopin).
My answer to the question asked by the story is that Louise does not die due to the joy of seeing her husband alive but due to her despair at seeing Mr. Mallard alive. Her dreams of having a new beginning, a fresh new life for her are crushed. She is sickened by the sudden appearance of her husband and by the realization that she has to resume her married life of subjugation with her husband. Louise loves herself and her freedom more than her husband. She wants to live her life on her terms and for alone. As mentioned in the story, she wanted a life not too long before the news of Mr. Mallard’s death. After the news, she craves for a longer life as she thinks that she could gain the freedom which she was deprived off. But seeing her husband alive and the resulting loss of her freedom, she losses the desire to live.

‘The Story of an Hour’ was first published in Vogue in 1894 and is a short and very widely read story of Chopin. The story is about Louise Mallard’s response to the news of her husband being killed and her sudden demise on his appearance. The story represents Chopin’s notions of the role of women in marriage and female identity in the 19th century. During the time the story was written, women were considered inferior to men. They had no right to live their life in their terms. Women had lower status in marriage and society. There is a lot of irony in the story including the first and last section of the tale. The news of the killing of Mr. Mallard is notified to Mrs. Mallard with great care as she was affected with a heart ailment and in the end, the doctor concludes that the reason behind Mrs. Mallard’s death is the ‘joy that kills.’ The story tells us that Kate Chopin’s answer would be that Mrs. Mallard died of grief and despair on knowing that her husband was still alive and the shattering of her new found freedom.

Work Citation:

  • SHALLA. “Critical Analysis of ‘The Story of an Hour.'”
  • “Literary Analysis.”
  • Nicole Smith. “Extended Plot Summary of “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin.”
  • “Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour.” 18 December 1998. 11 October 2008
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