“The story of an hour” is a literary fiction written by Kate Chopin. Kate Chopin (1850-1904) was well known American writer of short stories. She is best known for her recurrent theme on the status of women in societal affairs, the challenges and problems facing them as well as repression and gender bias.
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“The story of an hour” is rhetorically hour’s recount of the marriage life of Mrs. Louise Mallard. The text describes the final hour of her life spent dreaming about how she would become totally free from marital repression she has been experiencing under her domineering husband Mr. Brently Mallard. Mallard’s only way to acquire this freedom is through the misleading message told her that her oppressor (husband) is dead.
She will now live freely and fulfill her feminine ambitions joyfully through the remaining part of her life. However, this ends up becoming tragic to her in a sudden anti climax when she unfortunately looses her own life instead of celebrating the freedom that comes with widowhood because her husband was still alive after all.
The story is an example of literary fiction, since it economical in structure with few characters. Characters are few in this text with the main character being Mrs. Louise Mallard who is a very attractive young woman and grieves the apparent death of her husband but inwardly celebrates the freedom that she will enjoy in the days to come after his departure; and her husband Mr. Brently Mallard who is portrayed as being overbearing and repressive to his wife; other characters include Josephine who is a friend to Mrs. Mallard, Richards a friend to Mr. Mallard and the Doctors who give a wrong diagnosis of the death of Mrs. Mallard later in the end. Josephine and Richards are the ones who help break the news that Mr. Mallard is dead.
Chopin adopts a summative approach in that events unfold in one place (the Mallard’s house); everything happens within a span of less than one day at a specific location with absolutely no sub plots to develop the story further.
The author adopts a nineteenth century setting in America and recounts the events in the Mallards household within a span of one hour. Thematically, the story explores the status of a typical American woman in the nineteenth century where aspects such as female repression and male dominance were rife.
Within the nineteenth century setting in America, society was biased against women and the girl child. The place of a typical woman was expected to be the kitchen where she was entitled to take care of the entire household, bear children for the man and take care of them to maturity.
During this period, women had no rights to vote and participate in the nation’s democratic processes, employment opportunities were skewed against them to an extent that it was not easy for them to access paid jobs and even if they managed to get such jobs, they could only be hired for a pittance to earn much less than their male counterparts for similar work. Hence, Mr. Mallard being a typical husband in the 19th century clearly dominates his wife.
In conclusion it is evident that in the 19th century women never had freedom; they were never granted an opportunity to accomplish what they wanted because societal values were skewed and sexist. Domestic roles are what they were identified with and what consumed their entire life on earth. Freedom was never forthcoming as is revealed in the ironic fate of Mrs. Mallard who looses her own life trying to secure a better one. This was the fate of the female gender during this time.