“The Story of an Hour” was written in 1894 by Kate Chopin (1851-1904) she was an American short stories and novel writer. Her some other works are The Awakening, The Storm, Desiree’s Baby. Her work was mostly based on lives of women and their sensitive matter. She was also the Feminist writer. Her main focus on her work was women’s discovery of her identity, the fighting against gender and social norms. Her works were almost forgotten after her death but in 1950’s scholars rediscover and made them popular among students and people again.
Summary of Story of an hour
“The Story of an hour”, shows us the condition of married women around the period of 1890’s. Then women weren’t allowed to show that she is in an unhappy marriage and wishes to be freed. This story is about Mrs. Mallard, a young woman trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage. She is informed that her husband has been killed in a train accident and is comforted by her sister. Crying, she returned to her room, but soon she felt the sense of freedom and joy, as she realizes she will now live for herself and begins to imagine all the things she will be able to do now. She said Free, Free, Free over and under her breath, she knew she won’t be able to control herself and her tear once she will see Mr. Mallard dead body at his funeral but the sense of freedom, not being kept repressed again makes her body and soul feel free and calm. After some time, her sister brought her downstairs, their front door opens up and her husband (Mr. Mallard) walks in, he was unaware of the accident. Seeing him alive Mrs. Mallard dies instantly and the doctor declares that the joy that kills is the cause of her death.
According to Mrs. Mallard both men and women’s freedom is snitched away from them after the marriage. Because after the marriage one will be under the burden of another expectations and society’s expectation from those couple. Society expects couples to have a baby, grow a family as soon as they get married, they are not asked about their careers, their jobs but now all what people care about is a baby and starting a family. If couples say they don’t want to start a family/have a baby, then they are treated differently most of the time its women who should suffer more after planning not to have the baby. Mostly in south Asian societies women are considered incomplete/ less women if they don’t have babies so most of the time, they are not even allowed to take part in different social events, poojas. Similarly, husband and wife hinder each other’s freedom by keeping too much expectations from the other.
For example, a man uses to live alone a do all the office work and housework by himself before marriage, but suddenly after marriage he will start behaving like a child and his every need, small details should be taken care about. They don’t help a bit they expect their wife to do every and take care of everything because of which women don’t have time to take care of them, and their health and mental health. In brown household we have grown up watching all the male member in sitting room talking, enjoying and relaxing whereas all the females are always in the kitchen preparing foods, doing the dishes for the others in every family gathering. We can say from this that after marriage women barely have time for themselves, even my aunts sometimes tell me that don’t marry anyone just study earn well enjoy your life and live for yourself marriage do nothing good (they are not in a bad, abusive marriage).
Similarly, after marriage women too expect men to take care of their every financial want and needs even though that woman too be doing jobs. Most of the women is seeing keeping all the salary of their husband and giving him some as a pocket money, it may be sometime good as it helps a lot in saving but most of the time its weird seeing men asking/taking few amounts from their salary as a pocket money so for most of them men after marriage they no longer have financial independency. The wife may be doing all this for their future so their saving will be more and husband won’t be able to waste the money but this is not that good, all this pressure from the society, family and partner in a long run is really frustrating and these may make one to end the marriage because freedom is most important for everyone and all most have right to live their live freely, enjoy their life and they and their choice/ decision must be respected and not be judged.
Girls are taught from the early age that they should marry someone and is always supposed to serve and make their husband happy, so we can say that our society believes and make young girls too believe that marriage is an event in one’s life and men are always superior in it. Marriage is and was not always for love, during the time this short story was written, it was more about family reputation, social rank, financial reassurance so people used to stay in a loveless marriage without considering divorce as an option. For Mrs. Mallard marriage was a practice which would legally trap the women and the men together forever, where they both will impose their ideas, expectations and responsibilities on each other. She too believed that marriage takes away the freedom from once’s life. Mrs. Mallard was also in an unhappy marriage.
As she cried and was genuinely sad when she gets to know about her husband’s death, we can say that it was not an abusive marriage, but not having an abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that a healthy and happy marriage. To have and be in a good marriage two people must have equal rights, freedom and love, and respect for each other, but here that was not the case. “And yet she had loved him — sometimes. Often she had not.” This line shows that Mrs. Mallard didn’t love her husband much and marriage is the life-long bond in which she is trapped. When she was all alone in her room, she a sense of freedom as she realizes now she is finally free and will be living herself and won’t be kept repressed again.
During the 1890’s it was not easy for women to walk away from marriage. The widow was given more respect in comparison to the divorcee women because women were supposed to serve their husbands, obey them. and women standing up for their rights and leaving their toxic household/husband was not tolerated by the Patriarchal Society. Even in today’s context situation is pretty much similar women are still forced to be in a repressive and abusive marriage, it’s the women who are always told to compromise and tolerate. Women are forced to believe that they don’t have their own identity and will be needing a male partner to survive. We have seen many cases where women stay in marriage even after being tortured, molested, harassed by their husband and husband’s family for years sometimes for the sake of their parents or sometimes saying their child needs the love of both the parents.
Freedom is the most foremost aspect of one’s life, one may have all the wealth/money of this world, maybe the richest person out there but without freedom, all that wealth is of no use. Every person will be choosing their freedom over wealth any day. Having freedom means respecting our views, thoughts, and rights and getting to live our lives as we wish. Chopin’s the story of an hour also highlights important of freedom and independence in one’s life.
Frist Mrs. Mallard was genuinely sad over the news about her but over the course of time that sadness, sorrow turned into a joy, she finally felt free, she felt that now she will her living for herself and not others, she says that now on she will be living for herself and not others this shows as a married women suppression she was having. She died as soon as she saw her husband and the doctor announced that it was the joy that kills which means that the sudden excitement, happiness of seeing her husband alive kills her, but we readers know that was not the case, but the realization of no longer having her freedom and independence and again living her life for someone, being associated with others name and being repressed kills her.
In most of the marriage women don’t have freedom, they should be living under her husband and she is controlled by her him. Men start feeling that they own women just because now they are married and start controlling everything, even today most of the women can’t choose whether she wants child or not, they are even told to dress and behave differently just because now they are married. Even today we can see that in most of the places married women are forced to cover her face with the long veil, be it in the name of religion, culture, social norms women are forced away from her freedom and is always oppressed.
Women/ Girls are taught from the young age that her husband and her marriage is the most important thing in her life and to save her marriage she should be good wife and obey her husband. This makes her believe that she is inferior than her husband and will be needing a husband to live and won’t have any identity from an early age, and it’s more like a responsibility which they can’t backoff from this is the reason even today most of the women don’t consider divorce as an option. As it is male dominant society many women lose her freedom as men believes that just because now, they are married now he owns her. Girls should be taught from early age that she is no less that anyone, her happiness and freedom should always be her first priority.
Through “The story of an hour” Kate Chopin wants to show us all the readers that each marriage may be oppressive, it can be a happy marriage with a loving and caring family and the husband but the one may want to be bad of it so bad. We may never know how one may be feeling and how we are oppressing their freedom. We may think we are doing all these to protect them, make their life more comfortable but they must not be liking it and maybe thinking that we want to cage them. So proper communications, understanding is must between the couples so that there won’t be any miscommunication and misconception about another intention.