In the late 1800s and early 1900s, gender roles were very specific. It was a male dominant society and women were considered subordinate; therefore, it was difficult for women to break free from their existing roles. Also in this time frame, classism, or discrimination based on class, existed. Louise Mallard, the protagonist in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” and Emily Grierson, the protagonist in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” are both characters living in the post-Civil War era, struggling to free themselves from the constraints society has placed upon them. Louise Mallard and Emily Grierson both lack the freedom to control their own lives because of societal reasons. In “The Story of an Hour” and “A Rose for Emily,” Kate Chopin and William Faulkner show us that their characters, Louise Mallard and Emily Grierson, both have an experience of loss that makes them understand their oppression.
Kate Chopin creates Louise Mallard as a character in the nineteenth century who experiences conflicting emotions regarding to her marriage. In her writing, Chopin does not mention anything bad about Louise’s husband, Brently Mallard. In fact, the text suggests that Brently is a good husband to Louise and their relationship is not a problem. This is why when Mrs. Mallard receives the news that her husband is on the list of people who were killed in a train crash, she grieves. She isolates herself in her room, stares out an open window, and then involuntarily begins to feel emotions other than sadness and devastation. Feelings of joy and freedom consume her and she becomes internally conflicted. Chopin does much in the text to show that Louise is not a horrible and egotistic person for feeling happiness at the death of her husband. For example, Chopin writes:
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. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome. There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself (16).
Although Louise is sad that her husband is dead, escaping the restraints of her marriage brings her a feeling of joy that is much greater than the feeling of sadness. Louise understands that as a married woman she is tied to her husband’s power and control but as a widow she can finally live a life of independence. However, Louise’s feeling of freedom does not last long. Chopin ironically depicts a theme of loss within Mrs. Mallard when she finds out her husband is, in fact, still alive. Rather than suffering from loving her husband and then losing him because of the train crash, she suffers from loving the feeling of freedom that comes afterwards and then losing it as she sees him walk through the door. Author and English professor S. Selina Jamil writes: