Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” tries to shed light on the conflict between women and a society that assign gender roles using a patriarchal approach. Specifically Margaret Bauer highlights, that most of Chopin’s works revolves around exploring the “dynamic interrelation between women and men, women and patriarchy, even women and women” (146). Similarly, in “The Story of an Hour” Chopin depicts a society that oppresses women mostly through the institution of marriage, as women are expected to remain submissive regardless of whether they derive any happiness. The question of divorce is not welcome, and it is tragic that freedom of women can only be realized through death. According to Bauer, the society depicted in Chopin’s story judged women harshly as it expected women to play their domestic roles without question, while on the other hand men were free to follow their dream and impose their will on their wives (149).
Chopin depicts marriage as a prison institution that confines women for life. In the story there is no possibility for divorce and death seems to be the only way out. Evidently, since marriage is dictated by society, women do not seem bothered by their lack of freedom since they feel it is their obligation to run homes without complaining. From the story, Mrs. Mallard does not seem perturbed by her present situation until gets a taste of freedom after receiving the news about her husband death. Precisely, we are told that;
She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free! (Chopin 260)
It is after this reawakening that Mrs. Mallard realizes that she can now live her life the way she wants, instead of the current situation where her life is dictated by her husband. The above passage shows that women in this society chose to stay in marriage not because they enjoy the institution of marriage, but because society expects them to, the fact that society does not expect women to opt out of oppression marriages makes the situation even worse. Unfortunately, Bauer highlights that a woman lack of identity and voice was uniform across all marriage institutions even within the confines of love as depicted by Mrs. Mallard statement “And yet she had loved him—sometimes…” (Chopin 261; Bauer 150).
According to Bauer, it seems like marriage is an institution that saves women from their own inadequacy because they are not in a position to reason on their own. This perception obviously brainwashes women and they stop...