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Feminism in Story of an Hour

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Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour is about feminism and female empowerment. Chopin moves for women’s rights all through the story, from Mr. Mallard’s death to his comeback. She shows the oppression of marriage and how death can set a woman free. A woman’s identity is unique and distinct from the identity of her husband.

A woman can sometimes find her identity being oppressed by her husband in marriage. She ends up living in his shadow. She does not live for herself; she lives for him and his work. Women had little to no freedom or rights in the 1800s. They catered to all of their husband’s needs. Mrs. Mallard feels free from the obligations to her husband that were forced upon her when she learns about his death. However, she was not afraid of her future; “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely.” (Chopin) Mrs. Mallard looks forward to the years of independent freedom that are yet to come. She could finally be alive as her own person; “There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself.” (Chopin) Her husband, Mr. Mallard, was oppressing her and she did not want to live like that. She wanted to not take orders from anyone and make her own independent choices. She was forced to live that way because her husband controlled her according to societal rules although he was not abusive. Once she found out he was dead, she felt free from the male oppression that she had been a victim of since the day they got married. Mrs. Mallard would rather not have to live for her husband but live for herself instead. Because divorce was frowned upon during this time, his alleged death allowed her to be herself without getting a divorce, so society would not look down upon her. Mrs. Mallard’s medical diagnosis and heart condition are examples of the male-dominated society in which she lives.

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Chopin reveals a deep-rooted problem woman faced in marital relationships. With this idea, she voiced that marriages were institutions that put restraints on women. Husbands often imposed their will onto their wives. Mrs. Mallard becomes a stronger woman in a short period of time because of Mr. Mallard’s death. She is confused about her newly found independence but is delighted over the thought of being free. “She said it over and over under her breath: ‘free, free, free!” (Chopin) Her husband’s death frees her from the restraint of marriage. The restraint of marriage does not allow for Mrs. Mallard to be her own person with her own interests. For just an hour, Mrs. Mallard praises her life and experiences freedom from her husband. As she looks out her window, she realizes how marriage made her into someone who did not have an identity. She lived a life that made her only her husband’s wife. She was able to believe for a brief moment that she no longer had a man that would force her to be someone she did not want to be. Mrs. Mallard looks out her window and begins to feel hopeful with the sight of the natural world outside instead of being upset over Mr. Mallard’s death. She thinks about how much time she will have for herself now that she has no husband. She knows that she will mourn him at his funeral because he was not a bad husband; he was just following along with societal normalities. She is unsure of how much she actually loved him since she is not upset about his death. Mrs. Mallard is just relieved to finally be free from male oppression.

In Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour, Mrs. Mallard was an average housewife who was not allowed her own identity and freedom. She felt a brief moment of sadness over her husband’s death and then had it replaced with happiness. She was oppressed by her marriage, but her husband’s death set her free. Everyone has their own identity; one person does not own another. Everyone is unique in their own ways.  

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