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Kate Chopin's 'The Story of an Hour' - Essay Example

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The literal and metaphoric namelessness of the central character reflects the manner in which the patriarchy coerces women to conform to certain specific, male-defined social roles. There also, however, needs to be an analysis of the behavior of the protagonist in the story. Mrs. Mallard’s reaction in response to the news of her husband’s purported death forms the main plot of the story. Her cursory shedding of tears is in sharp contrast to the numb grief that one would generally expect from a woman of her predicament. In fact, her expression of grief seems, just like her wifely devotion, an external social obligation. Her true feeling, that of uninhibited freedom, is expressed only behind closed doors, shielded from judging eyes of the patriarchal society. The protagonist’s euphoric feeling of liberation brings to mind the conventional representations of the loss of a husband as is portrayed in literature. While in the latter the woman stricken with anguish usually finds solace in her role as a mother, the very idea of widowhood is reassessed in Chopin’s story from the particularized perspective of a woman. It is significant to note that the work deliberately refrains from making any didactic commentary on the apparent lack of sorrow in Mrs. Mallard. This can be seen in the following lines: “She did not stop to ask if it were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.” (Chopin, n.d.) The moment which conventionally

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evokes not merely grief but also helplessness in a woman bound within the confines of patriarchy becomes a moment of empowerment for Chopin’s protagonist. As she sheds her identity as ‘Mrs. Mallard’, she comes into her own and attains unfettered selfhood in that single moment of epiphany. Domesticity in the story operates not merely as a constituent of its thematic concerns but also as the stylistic techniques within it. It is interesting that Mrs. Mallard positions herself on a chair near the window. The window, redolent of the ideas of freedom and liberation, stands at the periphery between the internal shackles of domesticity and the uncharted world of endless possibilities that lies beyond it. While the actual realization of her selfhood occurs within the confines, it is also within the domestic space that her quest for independence comes to a shocking, tragic halt. In fact, one may argue that much of the tragic abruptness of the story’s denouement owes itself to its domestic setting. The principal point of debate in any analysis of Chopin’s story is one regarding the ironic and unexpected climax. While one may argue that since Louise Mallard comes into her own shortly before her death, the death is not essentially tragic; an opposite viewpoint, that of the fatalist twist of events being counterproductive within Chopin’s feminist scheme, may hold equally true. In the essay titled “Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour"”, Lawrence I. Berkove observes, “Louise discounts love as secondary to self-assertion. While this is undoubtedly her position, there is no textual reason to assume it is also Chopin's.” (Berkove, 2000) Louise looks upon recognized self-assertion as the most significant facet of her existence. Needless to say, such a view is not in consonance with traditional norms of marriage. Within

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An Analysis of Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” An Analysis of Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” The theme of domesticity and the physical and psychological entrapment that it induces for a woman assumes centrality in Kate Chopin’s story “The Story of an Hour”…
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