Women's Independence In The 19th Century: The Story Of An Hour By Kate Chopin

1167 words - 5 pages

“Men weren't really the enemy - they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.” (quotegarden) As changes in industry and lifestyle swept the nation in the mid-nineteenth century, questions regarding women’s place in society started to arise. This prompted many women to reevaluate their positions in their own lives. At the time, women were dominantly domestic figures, residing in the house to matronly care for children and tend to household duties not to be bothered with by the husband. It is important to note that men in this century were raised and cultivated to have a certain view of women, so they are not actually malicious as some might view them, they are simply products of their environment. It just so happened that women drew the metaphorical “short stick”. Socially and politically, women were not independent. The only voice they had was through their husbands, and relationships and ideas shared with other women at this time were thought to be nothing more than domestic chatter, not to be taken seriously. The only exception to this widely accepted rule was, of course, a widow. She was not tied to a husband or father, or any male for that matter, so she had more freedom over not only her estate but her personal life as well. This is the situation Louise Mallard finds herself in in Kate Chopin’s short story, The Story of an Hour. Chopin illustrates the woman’s newfound feelings of pure freedom that come with the death of her husband and helps readers to understand the oppression felt by women during this time period using Mrs. Mallard’s view on her marriage and her intense emotions, along with the inner conflict she feels.
With some knowledge of the plight of women during this time period, Louise Mallard’s view of her marriage can be more properly analyzed. In the story, Mrs. Mallard’s first name is not revealed until the end of the story. This could lead one to the assumption that Mrs. Mallard and women of this time period did not have identities apart from their husbands. In the eighteen-hundreds, women were not allowed to own their own property, vote, or even sign contracts. It is not until Louise completely lets go of her old self and accepts her new freedom as a woman independent from male dominance and societal restrictions that she is given an identity in the story, a first name. In the story, Louise addresses her thoughts on her marriage quite briefly: “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and grey and dead.” (Chopin 13) Her husband had not given her any specific reasons illustrated in the story (apart from her oppression) to resent him, and he truly loved her. She knew she would grieve the loss of her husband whom she had loved, but the overwhelming freedom she had just acquired mattered more to her. This epitomizes...

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