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It’s All In An Hour’s Worth: Mrs. Mallard’s Awakening

2037 words - 9 pages

Discrimination against women has been prevalent for centuries now. From the nurturing/emotional stereotype, housewife status, lower pay in the workforce, to sexual abuse and more, women have suffered it all. However, Kate Chopin goes to the heart of what women have been deprived of most, a personal right without which freedom would have no meaning or value: self assertion, reflection, and independence. According to Harold Bloom, “Chopin offers concentrated descriptions of moments that shatter social complacency, that quickening of consciousness which gives birth to self-desire, self-recognition, and, in Chopin’s fictive world, consequent despair and self-alienation” (51). Critics predominantly agree that in her highly acclaimed short story, “Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard’s death is the result of a more intricate, spiritual reason than merely her heart problems. Having experienced an intense self reflection process that gave her the opportunity of a spiritual awakening and liberation that few women experienced then, the sight of her husband reminds Mrs. Mallard that she would have to give in to her husband and patriarchy again. As such, both her mind and body automatically choose physical death over spiritual imprisonment, after discovering the joy of freedom.
Kate Chopin drew from her own experience to depict a picture of women’s extremely limited lives in society and marriage, particularly in “Story of an Hour.” According to both Emily Toth’s “Unveiling Kate Chopin” and “Women’s Issues in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening,” Chopin’s father died suddenly from a railroad accident when she was still a child (9-11). In “Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard’s husband is alleged to have died in an akin form. Now, Toth states that there are two possibilities for Chopin’s close usage of her experience in this short story, both containing a central element: spiritual awakening. First, it could be that Chopin was depicting a strong possibility for when her mother could have experienced a sense of liberation and spiritual awakening not present in her life as a daughter, mother, and wife beforehand (9-11). Second, Toth argues that this could constitute Chopin’s own moment of liberation from her father’s dictatorship. Both views seem plausible as no widow in Chopin’s family ever chose to remarry again (182). Unlike the character of Mrs. Mallard though, Kate Chopin’s mother did not die soon thereafter. Toth claims that Chopin was forced by the realities of her time to make the heroine die in the end, as it would have been threatening and unacceptable to have a happy, free widow (9-11).
While it is true that a different ending for the heroine would have been problematic in those times, Chopin seems to have done more than just veil, from the persecution of society, her mother’s and potentially her own awakening. She seems to have employed a double edged sword method: protect her short story from being rejected or banned so she could successfully spread a message,...

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