Caitlyn ChauStrozierERWC P31/16/18TITLE What is usually known for causing grief, heartbreak, and pain actually stirred up joy and triumphant to this woman living in the 19th century. After her husband’s death in a railroad accident, Louise Mallard, who has a heart condition, seldom cries and soon begins to succumb to the unfamiliar feeling of independence. Joy and freedom overpower her, but before she can experience her new life as a widow, she greets her sister downstairs only to collapse and die at the sight of her husband alive. The doctors say her heart was overcome with joy. In her short story, “The Story of an Hour,” Kate Chopin exposes marriage’s oppressions through protagonist Louise Mallard’s unforseen reaction upon hearing about her husband’s death. To begin, Chopin utilizes fresh and freeing imagery to contrast the oppressions of marriage. After the hearing the dreadful news, Louise shuts herself in a room where she looks out an open window to a spring day. Chopin writes, “She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which someone was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves. There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.” This quote illustrates how Louise can finally see, hear, and smell the freedom by observing the birds, trees, clouds, and sky around her as opposed to the feeling of being restrained and subdued. This scene provokes the reader’s senses of jubilation and rebirth. This scene also juxtaposes liberty with marriage’s restraints. A fresh spring day offering new life contradicts the captivity and loss of independence from marriage. This imagery contributes to the images and feelings associated with freedom and juxtaposes the confining nature of marriage. While Josephine and Richard may treat her carefully due to her heart condition, Louise’s heart troubles carry a deeper symbol about marriage. From the very first sentence, Chopin sets up this distinction and we learn about Louise’s character: “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” The heart can be understood figuratively as a core for one’s emotions. In the 19th century, marriage, which set specific roles, was determined to be the pivotal component of life and the foundation of families. Louise’s emotional heart symbolize the problem of how marriage is constricting and destructive. When it is revealed that her husband is still alive, she dies and the doctors “said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.” Her heart, overcome with joy, could not handle the shock. Symbolism demonstrates how the institution of marriage prevails in restricting Louise’s independence and free will. The use of situational irony gives Chopin’s short story an unexpected twist and is important in understanding the restricting nature of marriage and domesticity. After confining herself to a room, Louise has a new sense of freedom and triumphant. Ready to take on her marriageless life, she heads down the stairs to greet her sister and Richard. However, Chopin takes readers by surprise. “Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one.” This quote shows just as Louise is about to begin her life as a free woman, Brently Mallard unknowingly took away her freedom as quickly as it came. This unexpected ending reveals how marriage’s repressions are inescapable. To conclude, Kate Chopin makes the repressive arrangements of marriage a central theme throughout her short story, “The Story of an Hour,” with the use of vivid imagery to illustrate freedom juxtaposed to the restrictions of marriage in the 19th century, symbolism to represent one’s emotions, and situational irony to emanate a sharp discrepancy between Louise’s anticipated liberation and her untimely death. The theme that no matter one’s intentions, marriage will result in a loss of independence was prevalent during the cult of domesticity period of the 19th century. Chopin’s story is considered a revolutionary work of literature for her time and gave rise to the feminist movement which still continues today.