The Story of an Hour: Emotions and Psychology of Women

The short story portrays emotions and psychology of women, their life grievances and joy. Chopin does not say much about the main character, Mrs. Mallard, but it is evident that she is not happy in her marriage life. From the very beginning, Chopin gives only some hints to readers to decide and guess life circumstances and problems faced by Mrs. Mallard. For Mrs. Mallard “Free! Body and soul free!” means freedom from marriage relations and a new life, liberation and personal independence.

At the beginning of the story, Chopin depicts Mrs. Mallard is as a cold and unsympathetic woman who tries to escape life troubles and problems resulted from low social role in society and lack of loving relations. Chopin depicts her: “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 256). This social position and role within the family was typical for many women of her historical age. Women were perceived as weak and helpless, light minded and powerless. It is possible to assume that Mrs. Mallard is not happy: she has no children and romantic love so important for every person.

The death of her husband symbolizes a freedom and personal liberation. Mrs. Mallard exclaims: “Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.” (Chopin 757). This remark explains that death of a husband was the only chance for women to become free and independent. Women did not have a right to divorce and leave a husband. She allows herself to celebrate this emotional state: “There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory“ (Chopin 758). These emotions state symbolizes and unveils that Mrs. Mallard suffers greatly because her role in the life and marriage is limited by domestic sphere only. Mrs. Mallard is a weak woman who cannot fight for love and happiness. “Free! Body and soul free!” means a personal freedom and a new life, new thoughts and self-identity. All her life, Mrs. Mallard has to follow and accept a code of values growing of women’s culture based on sermons, religious traditions and fiction. For Mrs. Mallard, romance means pure relations free from cupidity and social traditions. It is evident that Mrs. Mallard is unsatisfied with life and with reality. For Mrs. Mallard happiness means unachievable dream which comes true with her husband’s death. In this sense, she is a victim because she needs to escape from realities of life which she cannot change. At the end of the story she is healthy: “Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body” (Chopin 756). She is a victim of social prejudices which destroy her life and hopes.

In sum, “Free! Body and soul free!” means freedom from social values and traditions preached by the society she lives in. For a long time, Mrs. Mallard was not courageous to make a step and leave her husband. Death of Mrs. Mallard at the end of the story symbolizes how impossible it was for her to fight with life and survive. Mrs. Mallard dies, not by conscious choice, but simply giving up her dream without ever attempting to fulfill it. Probably, Mrs. Mallard understands uselessness and hopelessness of her life and existence.

Works Cited

Chopin, K. Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Library of America, 2002.

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