Women’s Rights Kate Chopin is an American feminist fiction writer and a woman ahead of the time. Similar to the female characters in her stories, Chopin was an independent woman. She would often smoke cigarettes or walk in the streets unaccompanied; these practices were considered unusual for a nineteenth-century woman to do. “The Story of an Hour” is one of Chopin’s feministic short stories that focus on women and their views on marriage. It was published in 1894 and shows self-assertion when the protagonist, Louise Mallard, rejoices after hearing of her husband’s death.
Kate Chopin, the author of “The Story of an Hour” uses symbols to expose her point about the control of women in a male-dominated society. Chopin uses symbols such as “ She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. ” (paragraph 5, Chopin). Through the open window she sees many other symbols furthering the feelings of goodness in the reader. She sees the tops of trees that “were all aquiver with the new spring life” symbolizing a new life to come, something new happening in her life. She uses “Springtime” to show not only the new life that Mrs.
Mallard is waiting for but that women in the Ninteenth-Century were becoming more independence. Which in turn could mean a “new life”. Society in late Ninteenth-Century expected women to keep house, cook, bear and rear children but little more. Despite efforts of women’s rights activists such as Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, women still had not received the right to vote in national elections by century’s end. “The Story of an Hour” hints that Mrs. Mallard’s husband–perhaps a typical husband of his day–dominated his wife.
During the Ninteenth-Century, women went to great changes to get marriage laws to be “normal” again. The situation that fathers always received custody of their children, leaving the mother completely without any rights, slowly started to change. The Custody of Infants Act in 1839 gave mothers of flawless character access to their children in the event of separation or divorce, and the Matrimonial Causes Act in 1857 gave women limited access to divorce. Women slowly had their rights changed so that they could eventually leave their husbands for good.
All in all, Chopin displays her character as having a joyous moment after the death of her husband because she is let go of being forced into her “femininity. ” Chopin displays a need for more independent women in this piece, suggesting that wronged womanhood is the simple fact that society didn’t allow them to be on the same level with men. Mrs. Mallard realizes a possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being. This suggests a dying will for independence. Mrs. Mallard realizes that she can now rely upon herself for everything and it will become her number one driving factor in life.
Mrs. Mallard was not happy at all in ther marriage, but she stayed because back then divorce was unheard of. Mrs. Mallard was saddened by her husband’s death, but on the other hand she was happy because now she could be free and do all of the things that she wanted to do. Mrs. Mallard is described as being young and having “a fair, calm face” (paragraph 8, Chopin) symbolizing the beauty and innocence of a child. Brently Mallard had repressed her, and now through this seemingly tragic event she is freed of his rule over her and she is able to go on with her life.
During the 1830s and 1840s, many of the changes in the status of women that occurred in the post-Revolutionary period such as the belief in love between spouses and the role of women in the home. This was an age of reform movements, in which Americans sought to improve the moral fiber of themselves and of their nation in unprecedented numbers. The wife’s role in this process was important because she was seen as the cultivator of morality in her husband and children. Besides domesticity, women were also expected to be pious, pure, and submissive to men.
These four components were considered by many at the time to be “the natural state” of womanhood, echoes of this way of life that still exists today. In a way “The Story of an Hour” has an ironic feel to it. The way that Louise handles the horrible news is ironic, because the reader expects her to react in an entirely different way. And in the end she is the one that ends up dying. So now even the title of the story makes sense it describes the one hour she spends dreaming about her new life in freedom; from getting the incorrect death message until the tragic passing away of herself.
A different theme to “The Story of an Hour” is that women that lived a hundred years ago never felt free. They felt as though they weren’t able to do what they wanted, since their family roles took much of their time. The reader feels for her when she explains the way she had only loved him sometimes, but more often didn’t, and how in the coming years she would be able to live for herself and no one else. “And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! Free! Body and soul free! ” she kept whispering. ” (paragraph 14 ,Chopin). This feeling; freedom, is one that Louise hasn’t felt before in a long time. Then she starts to ramble on about how much she loved but also how she was perfectly happy and more than that with the fact that she finally regained her freedom. “She carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (paragraph 28, Chopin). Mrs. Mallard has a lot more positive energy now and she even refers to herself as the “Goddess of Victory”.
The goddess of victory represents Louise’s triumph and victory over “repression”, over the “powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature” (paragraph 12, Chopin), which she had felt so restricted by in her marriage. It represented the coming years and how “Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. ” She was victorious, a strong, independent woman who would thrive on her own, just like goddesses are strong, independent, and rulers in their own right.
Women had, as previously mentioned, no rights whatsoever at the time this short story was written. This story was written in a time when it was almost common sense and tradition that women were inferior to men in status. In the story, Louise really wants to get more freedom, but once she thinks that her husband has died she starts to dream about it. This shows that she has an enormous repect for her husband and doesn’t dare to do anything that breaks his rules. “The Story of an Hour” most likely has inspired a great deal of women to stand up for their own independence if they feel like their marriage isn’t what they wanted it to be.
Works Cited: Cummings J. Michael. “The Story of an Hour”. 28 Febuary 2010. Copyright 2006 http://www. cummingsstudyguides. net/Guides3/Chopin. html Woodlief Ann M. “The Story of an Hour” 27 Febuary 2010 www. vcu. edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/ Wikipedia. org “The Story of an Hour” 21 Febuary 2010 http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/The_Story_of_an_Hour Wikipedia. org “History of women in the United States” 21 Febuary 2010 http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/History_of_women_in_the_United_States