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The Story of an Hour is a short story written by Kate Chopin in 1894. It was first published in Vogue magazine. The story focuses on Louise Mallard’s different emotional states after the news of her husband’s train accident. The publishing date holds a great significance in terms of the context of the text. The Nineteenth century was an age where the impact of the industrial revolution caused the gender gap to widen even more. Women were confined to the private sphere while man could harvest the benefits of the public sphere. Even in the domestic life, women were seen as inferior and as a property of their husbands. Besides, they had no right to sign any formal letter or possess an estate. The restraint of females affected the 19th-century literature. One of the female pioneers of this era is Kate Chopin. Kate Chopin was born in 1850 (some sources claim the date as 1851). She was a daughter of a relatively big Irish immigrant family. She couldn’t experience a father figure in her life because ironically enough, she had lost her father in a horrible train accident when she was a child. Throughout her childhood, she mostly has been raised by her female relatives. Twelve years after getting married to Oscar Chopin, she experienced the grief of her husband’s death and was widowed with six children. She never remarried again. This female dominance and independence can be seen in her writings. She was among the first American writers who mirrored the 19th century women’s lives, their struggles as well as their sexual life openly and sincerely. However, Chopin’s brave and revolutionary literature has not been recognized and mostly overlooked by the public until the 1960’s. With the emergence of feminist movement, her writings attracted public’s attention. This paper will critically analyze Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” short story in the context of history and Chopin’s perspective on women’s role within the society and marriage.
Despite the fact that Chopin relates Mrs. Mallard’s story, she doesn’t convey the story in the first person view. But she chooses to tell the events through a narrator’s perspective. However, the narrator is not merely an observer of the story. The narrator knows Louise’s inner thoughts and feelings for instance. The entrance of the story starts with an information given to the reader about Louise Mallard’s heart problem which will be handy in the coming events. Her sister Josephine hesitates to inform her sister about her husband’s train accident and tries to find a way to say it as less stressful as possible. It is important to note that the means of transportation at that time were often horses and other animals. In the early 19th century, the big expansion of railroad systems changed the way how people travel. In addition to that, the majority of the population has worked in railroad jobs just as Louise’s husband Brently. Brently’s friend Richard and Josephine delivered the news to Louise and she “wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment” (213). Initially, she could not understand the great significance of this event and reacted just as any other person would. After composing herself Louise goes to her room alone.
Beyond this point, Louise slowly begins to realize the brand new life that awaits her on the horizon. And the readers get to see Chopin’s writing style. Abundant usage of imagery and symbolism create a realistic setting and makes it easier for the reader to understand Louise’s mind better. When she enters the room, she sits in an armchair facing the open window. The armchair symbolizes the widowhood and the window represents the future that she hopes to live without someone dictating her. In that time period, getting a divorce was really hard for women but being a widow was not as bad as wanting a divorce.
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