Too many individuals in western society, marriage is a spiritual union between two people who are in love with one another. However, others may view it as a mere contract that bounds them for eternity. Mrs. Mallard is a character who views marriage in a negative light. In “The Story of an Hour”, by Kate Chopin, a combination of literary devices and liberating mood depicts marital oppression for females in the nineteenth century.
Visual imagery is the first literary device that highlights the meaning of the story. “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with new spring life…patches of blue sky showing here and there….” (Pg. 179-180) The scene is set after Mrs. Mallard is given the unfortunate news that her husband had passed away. However, the visual imagery in this story depicts a beautiful sunny day in the spring. Spring is a season with positive connotations. When identifying it, the reader associates this word with new beginnings and happiness. This creates a positive mood that contrasts with the death of Mrs. Mallard’s husband. A description of rain, thunder, and gloomy skies would have been more appropriate. The delightful atmosphere of this literary work foreshadows the fact that Mr. Mallard’s passing might not have been so unfortunate after all.
Personification plays a key role in conveying the protagonist’s negative view of marriage. “She felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air…she was beginning to recognize the thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back at her will.” (Pg. 180) Mrs. Mallard’s feeling was personified as this unstoppable force rushing toward her. Chopin’s utilization of repetition only intensifies her emotion. “She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” (Pg. 180) Her sudden apparent feeling turned out to be that of intense joy. It was so powerful that it took over her mind, body, and soul. In her time, women were pressured by society to marry and serve under their husbands. Since she was unable to survive without a man, Mrs. Mallard was unable to live life the way she wanted to. This oppresses women by not giving them a choice to be anything more than a housewife and child bearer. Like the spring season, the death of her husband meant a new beginning in her life. She would have full control of the house and fortune. Her view of marriage along with the use of personification and repetition creates a liberating mood. The reader can feel Mrs. Mallard’s emotions of freedom and empowerment.
Chopin concludes her point with a touch of cosmic irony. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.” (Pg. 181) It turns out that Mr. Mallard was alive and well the entire time. This causes Mrs. Mallard to die of a heart attack the moment she sees him. The overwhelming feeling of disappointment was too much for her heart to take. This is also dramatic irony since everyone character believed Mrs. Mallard died of uncontrollable joy. As suggested in the title, her freedom was but a mere illusion that only lasted for an hour. She was no longer able to make her own decisions and be her own person. Her disappointment highlights the fact that she had enough of feeling trapped in her marriage.
In “The Story of an Hour”, by Kate Chopin, a combination of literary devices and liberating mood portray marital oppression in the nineteenth century. The protagonist’s reaction to her husband being dead and alive depicts her struggle of confinement that marriage had provided for her. Chopin pushed societal boundaries by challenging this accepted concept of women being legally treated as property. She had given a voice to the housewives who were unable to express the same views through Mrs. Mallard.
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