In the short story, “The Story of an Hour,” author Kate Chopin presents the character of Mrs. Louis Mallard. She is an unhappy woman trapped in her discontented marriage. Unable to assert herself or extricate herself from the relationship, she endures it. The news of the presumed death of her husband comes as a great relief to her, and for a brief moment she experiences the joys of a liberated life from the repressed relationship with her husband. The relief, however, is short lived. The shock of seeing him alive is too much for her bear and she dies. The meaning of life and death take on opposite meaning for Mrs. Mallard in her marriage because she lacked the courage to stand up for herself.
Mrs. Mallard’s repressed married life is a secret that she keeps to herself. She is not open and honest with her sister Josephine who has shown nothing but concern. This is clearly evident in the great care that her sister and husband’s friend Richard show to break the news of her husband’s tragic death as gently as they can. They think that she is so much in love with him that hearing the news of his death would aggravate her poor heart condition and lead to death. Little do they know that she did not love him dearly at all and in fact took the news in a very positive way, opening her arms to welcome a new life without her husband. This can be seen in the fact that when she storms into her room and her focus shifts drastically from that of her husband’s death to nature that is symbolic of new life and possibilities awaiting her. Her senses came to life; they come alive to the beauty in the nature. Her eyes could reach the vastness of the sky; she could smell the delicious breath of rain in the air; and ears became attentive to a song from a distant place and twittering of multitude of sparrows—all representing in a very symbolic language her distinct moment of soaking in pleasures of freedom and experience of liberated life. Her experiences took the form of words: “free, free, free!” (Chopin 262). This clearly shows that she was experiencing life after she heard the news of her husband’s death.
Her love for life and the desire to live long, take an ironic twist when she sees that her husband is actually alive. Watching the husband alive in front of her is indeed the real shock of her life. It strikes with such a force that it takes her life. It is very likely that her weak heart simply could not bear, what indeed was for her, the most tragic news. Her husband’s death meant life to her which she hoped would be long enough. “She says a prayer that her life might be long to enjoy all the seasons in her life”. (Chopin 262).
While even the doctor proclaims that she died because she was overjoyed to see him alive, it was the opposite that happened. After having experienced a brief moment of what it was like to be free from an oppressed life she just...