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19 Feb

The Story of an Hour: Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin’s "The Story of an Hour" centers on a young woman’s reaction to a report that her husband died in a train accident. The action takes place in a single hour in an American home. The play conforms to the classical unities of time, place and action.

Mrs Mallard was afflicted with heart trouble. So great care was taken to break to her the news of her husband’s death. Her sister Josephine told her the news in broken sentences. Her husband’s friend Richard was there near her. It was he who had heard about the news about the raid road accident in the newspaper office. Brently Mallard’s name was leading the list of “killed”. Then he had confirmed the news through a second telegram. Mrs. Mallard hearing the news wept in her sister’s arms. When she became calm he went away to her room alone. She did not want anybody to follow her.

She sank into a comfortable arm chair facing the window. She could see the tops of trees that were alive with a new spring life. She sat quite motionless. She was young with a fair and calm face. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes. There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it. She felt it. Her bosom rose and fell. Then a little whispered word escaped lips. She said it over and over "free, free, free". The vacant stare went from her eyes .Now her eyes were keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast.

She was overcome with great joy. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the tender hands folded in death. She looked beyond death and knew that she would have so many years to come which would belong to her only. She opened and spread her arms to them in welcome. There would be no one to live for during those coming years. She would live for herself. No one would try to bend her will. And yet she loved him sometimes. Very often she did not love him. She kept whispering that her body and soul were free.

Josephine kneeling before the closed door implored for admission. She was worried about her. But she thought how the spring days and summer day s would be her own. She prayed that life be long. Then she arose and opened the door. She felt like a goddess of Victory. Together the sisters came down the stairs. Then Brently opened the door .He was a little travel stained and carried his sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of accident. He stood amazed to hear Josephine’s cry. When the doctors came they said  Mrs Mallard had died of heart disease –of the joy that kills.

As a feminist author she highlights the importance of female self assertion. Certainly in the 1890s the story was very radical and very threatening. She seems to be taken up by the idea of female self –discovery and identity.  

Courtesy: Prof Pius Ozhakal

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