Professor Brian Rockett
22 Septmeber 2014
"The Joy That Kills"
The final line in this short story, authored by Kate Chopin in the year of eighteen
ninety four, is a statement that was made by the doctors who arrived at the home of
Brently and Louise Mallard after she had apparently died of a heart attack. It is interesting to
note that this particular story was written in what is called the Gilded Age when the perceptions
of women were vastly different from what they are today. Women were seen as the weaker
vessel, and were to be shielded from certain situations that could possibly be harmful to them.
The news that her husband Brently had been killed in a railroad accident was something from
which Louise Mallard's sister, Josephine, and her husband's friend, Richards, attempted to
shield Louise. They knew that she had a weak heart and they were afraid being told the news of
her husband's death would be so shocking that Louise would become dangerously ill after
hearing it. It is ironic that the doctors would determine that she died from the shock and joy of
seeing that he was actually alive. The thoughts that Louise Mallard was having after hearing the
news of her husbands death brings into question if that is in fact what killed Louise Mallard.
When Louise was eventually told about the accident, "great care was taken to break to
her as gently as possible the news of her husbands death" (Chopin 15). It was done with "veiled
hints that revealed in half concealing" (15). Louise's initial reaction was one of shock and
sadness, a reaction that was to be expected. Louise locked herself in her bedroom to be alone
and contemplate the death of her husband and her new life without him. While mourning her
husband's death, she began to realize that she was free from her marriage. She began
pondering on the freedoms that she would have and the opportunities that will present
themselves to her as a single woman. It was these thoughts that women of this time were not
supposed to have. Louise's sister Josephine was concerned that she was making herself ill from
the news of the accident when in reality she was "drinking in the very elixir of life" as she sat
looking out of her bedroom window (Chopin 16). In other words, it seemed that Louise Mallard
was in ecstasy to be freed from her marriage to her husband Brently Mallard.