Throughout history, women have been restricted in their social right in silence under men’s shadow. However, as the movement for complete equality between women and men is brought up as a big issue, to have the same social quality without distinction of sex seems to have been achieved today. Furthermore, people, nowadays, know fairly well that such an inequality is not only unfair but also unjust. On the other hand, despite all the efforts that have been made to promote equality, the issue sometimes comes out as a serious problem and it is still undeniable that men are dominant in society.
Therefore, it is not difficult to guess how restrained life women lived in the far past. Kate Chopin treats and shows the low social position problem of women in nineteenth-century American society in her story, “Story of an Hour”. The story, on the surface, seems to claim to stand for the theme of women’s emancipation though by giving implied hidden meaning to the main character’s death (represents the only way out for freedom), the author tells us that women can’t be set free yet.
In an attempt to expose the society of her times, the author describes one woman’s miserable life. The story mainly discusses the woman’s regained freedom but, at the end of the story, the woman’s death shows that it is premature to think that women can recover their autonomy. The story begins when Louise Mallard hears the news of her husband Brently’s death in a train wreck from Richards, her husband’s friend, and Josephine, her sister. Because Louise has heart disease, they tell the news with great care.
Louise first feels a great loss and cries. Then she goes to her room alone. Gazing vacantly out the window, she comes to discover her new side of which she hasn’t even been aware. She realizes that she has won back her freedom which has been deprived by her husband. While she is picturing her coming free days with great pleasure, Josephine, her sister, keeps knocking at the door, being worried about Louise. Louise comes out of the room and Louise and Josephine come across Richards at the bottom of the stairs.
Just at that moment, Brently, Louise’s husband, comes back surprisingly, and Louise dies. The doctor says that she has died of joy, but only readers know the truth; even if it is a period that women long and struggle for the day of free, so far, it is only a dream. In other words, as yet, they are living in an androcentric society. From the start to the end of the story, Louise’s heart disease is considered an important feature of the character. Her disease is not just a part of main character’s trait. It represents woman’s inability of her time.
No matter she aspires to freedom, there is nothing she can do. “closed door” is one of the proofs that demonstrates her inability. She wants to be free and feel a sense of release but she knows that it can’t be actualized in the real world. For this reason, she closes the door because she thinks that her state of free mind can be severed from an oppressive miserable reality by doing so. “She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities. ”—she can’t even secure the door from the outside interference. dull stare” also indicates her enervation. Louise sees “open window” which stands for release and enjoys freedom for a while though her husband comes across her mind soon and then her eyes become dim right away. All her action shows how passive woman she is and, at the same time, implies her state of being able to do nothing. Louise doesn’t truly love her husband. Right after she hears the news that her husband has died, she ironically becomes lively, happy, and free, which means she isn’t content to live under a restraint of her husband.
She comes to perceive all the beautiful things around her such as “new spring life,” “delicious breath of rain,” and “patches of blue sky. ” The expression in her eyes also dramatically changes from “vacant and dull stare” to “keen and bright eyes. ” She feels the mood of positive change that she will soon experience. In some ways, the matter of whether or not she really loves her husband reflects the phases of the times. Women living in nineteenth-century marry someone who they don’t want. Regardless of their opinion, they marry for many reasons such as political occasions.
For Louise, death is the only exit saving her from pain that should be caused in the future. Narrator refers to “—of joy that kills” in her death. Then, what leads her to death? Precisely speaking, what makes her death be joyful one? “a monstrous joy” in the text is the answer for the question. To think deeply, “a monstrous joy” can be interpreted as the author, kind of a founder of feminism literature, wants to cast a reflection of her expectation, which she has born secretly in mind, in Louise.
Taking into consideration that the story is written even before female suffrage is guaranteed to woman, for an ordinary woman, who lives a serene passive life without any ambition, the unexpected loss of her husband must be something that is much bigger than just a trivial sense of loss when she first hears the news. But she shortly comes to know that she can manage to live happily without her husband, which means she has already experienced the pleasure of emancipation. Thus, now, she can’t go back to her life again.
The author doesn’t let her pleasure exist only in her realm of the subconscious so Louise’s joy is expressed as an extreme reversal, which is death, of the story. Since her thirst for freedom has already reached its climax, her husband’s safe return naturally drives her to the exit which is death. Her fate is her choice, rather than giving up and, at the same time, preferable to accepting her coming miserable days. The author concludes the story by giving a sign “—of joy that kills” to readers. By doing so, the author tries to makes the meaning of Louise’s death clear.
Depending on guess at the atmosphere of her times, it must have been not easy to give a vivid description of the period outspokenly as a woman. Nevertheless, in “Story of an Hour”, Kate Chopin reveals the phases of her times in which women live oppressive life in her way. She tells us that low social status of women is so obvious and unchangeable that there is no choice for women but to accept their fate even if women longs for their autonomy. Through the story, readers would be able to understand the hard fact about the period and have an opportunity to think about the issue deeply.