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The Story of One Hour by Kate Chopin
The main character in the story by Kate Chopin is Mrs. Mallard. The story revolves around her from the moment she receives the news of her husband’s death and the moment when he appears back home. She has an existing heart disease and is taken care of by her sister together with her husband’s best friend.
The character of Mrs. Mallard brings out such stylistic devices as irony, symbolism, imagery, and other. Her actions are contrasting and, her views are quite complex. She clearly brings out her true and the most inner feelings about her marriage. At first she displays feelings of loss and grief for her husband. Although it is confusing to those who brought the news to her, they try to be careful and gentle with her due to her existing heart problem.
Ironically, at the end of the story she dies because she cannot stand living with her husband whom she had mourned before. The heart disease, which kills her, symbolizes the disease of marriage. In the story, marriage depicts heart love, which may lead to intolerance. In fact, she describes her marriage as bondage that she finally enjoys being free from at last.
After careful analysis of her character, the reader can understand how Mrs. Mallard suffers psychologically. She brings out the problems that both the husband and the wife face in marriage. She portrays her husband as loving, yet she cannot love him all the time. Thus, she is truly joyous with the idea of living without him. In her vision, quivering of trees with the new spring life symbolizes her turning point to a new beginning.
Mrs. Mallard at first fears being alone, yet she admits that she is better off free and alone. This is ironical because most people after loss of a loved one most often have problems with moving on with normal life. She views marriage as bondage that one can only break when the other partner dies. It is ironical that Mrs. Mallard is over joyous about her husband death. However, the same joy turns against her when her husband comes back.
The portrayal of joy and other feelings in the story is significant as it clearly brings out the inner sufferings the character is undergoing in the marriage. Mrs. Mallard compares marriages to heart diseases that destroy a person from the inside. Such a comparison helps the reader contrast the reality and perceptions of the outward appearance of things and their actual inner state.
Mr. Mallard loves his wife, but she has other deeply rooted problems that make her more detached from the real world. She retreats in a world that is not understood, and the reader has to switch into the mode of her line of thoughts.
It is in that hour that the truth finally dawns on the main character. The hour takes us through the character’s journey of self awareness until the point when she dies. The phrase “joy that kills” shows that the character has seen immense happiness and freedom in her brief encounter of her visionary life without her husband. When she realizes that her husband is alive, she cannot stand it and dies.
Her great thirst of joy causes her death in order to complete the plot of the story. If she would continue living with her husband, she would be miserable ever after. This brings forward an assumption that her life after death brings her the new life that was in her vision.
The pain she has been undergoing is internal; and the hour that she meditates about her husband’s death is the same hour that her sufferings are literally over. She dies because the thought of going back to the same oppressive life is unbearable. The inner pain is over with her death, and her soul is finally free to live the life she was visualizing during her meditation.
According to the story, marriage is extremely constraining. It causes the heart disease and finally leads to the death of Mrs. Mallard. She does not advocate for the institute of marriage. Her marriage virtually aggravates her heart problem. The mere thought of going back to live with her husband causes her death. The realization of what has been troubling her, the meditation or rather the self awakening makes her want to be free. Despite the love of her husband, the Mallards’ marriage is depicted to be like any other marriage that has its own fair share of problems. Mrs. Mallard has many underlying personal problems that make her not fully appreciate or reciprocate her husband’s love. These problems display the reason why the marriage has complications and becomes impossible.
The news of her husband death acts as an eye opener to her. She realizes that there is no need for her to be sad because, after all, her marriage is such a bondage and a very unhappy arrangement.
Unfortunately, the hour ends tragically with the death of the main character. Although it might be an unexpected outcome for the reader, it is the only way for the main character to achieve true freedom she imagined after her husband’s reappearance. It is necessary to note that the character’s heart attack that causes her death is not because of happiness about her husband’s return. The death is brought about by the gravity of the fact that she cannot bear living with him any longer.