If any other characters in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” were to read Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts, they would surely be horrified. What sort of sane, caring woman would feel joy and relief at the death of her husband? She must be a terrible person, despite her reasoning for those feelings. How could Mr. Mallard have chosen such a woman for his bride? She’s a gem, truly; note the sarcasm. Though, one does have to consider what else there is to Mrs. Mallard. She is a human and there is much more to her than her seemingly ill feelings toward her late husband, such as her desire for freedom, her genuine care for Mr. Mallard, and her capacity to exhibit strong emotions.
Louise Mallard is a woman who enjoys freedom and independence. She feels soaring relief and fiery triumph upon realizing that, yes, she is finally free. She is free of the weighted ropes of marriage. She fantasizes of her days ahead, living for herself and only herself. “A kind intention or cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination” (Chopin 234). She views the imposing of one’s will on another person as a crime, no matter the intention behind it. She has a taste of freedom after Mr. Mallard’s death and can finally see days without stress ahead of her. Prior to her husband’s death, young Mrs. Mallard feels tied down and even oppressed. “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” (Chopin 233). Despite the typical oppression of women throughout the centuries prior to the 1920s, Mrs. Mallard possesses a free spirit.
There is nothing glaringly wrong with the marriage between Brently and Louise Mallard. There is no evidence of abuse or neglect. Mr. Mallard loves and cares deeply for Mrs. Mallard. “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 gray and dead” (Chopin 234). On Mrs. Mallard’s end, she was not entirely indifferent. “And yet she had loved him—sometimes” (Chopin 234). She is not a cruel woman entirely indifferent to her husband. She does care for him, but the overwhelming realization that she was finally free overpowered what love she did have for him. Even her heart condition seemingly improves for the hour in which she believed her husband to be dead. When presented with the idea that she would no longer feel that oppression so intimately, she is swept up in the moment by overwhelming liberation.
From the very beginning, it is clear that Mrs. Mallard is an emotional woman. She feels...