Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Story of an Hour Essay

The Story of an Hour Essay

The narrative “The Story of an Hour” by the American writer Kate Chopin reflects the social position of women at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. In that epoch, women were greatly oppressed by men. They were considered to be born only for marriage but they did not have any choice even in that sphere. Most marriages were contracted regarding financial perspectives of the future family. Sometimes marriages were just a good bargain of two heads of family, and while men had the opportunity to choose, women had to be mute. Besides, they were deprived of any rights, they had to submit to men and if they dared to resist, it was considered inconceivable.

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The main character of the story, Mrs. Millard, has a heart disease. Therefore, her relatives, sister Josephine and her husband’s friend Richard, do not know how to tell her the tragic news. Her husband Mr. Millard died in a train accident. When finally they find the appropriate words to inform Mrs. Millard, she locks herself up in her room and weeps. However, these tears are caused more by shock than by grief. To the readers’ astonishment soon she shows the feelings quite unexpected in that situation.

She is excited and we can even say happy. She feels free and independent. She sees life around her in an absolutely different way: “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 some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves”(Chopin 127). We are shocked by such woman’s reaction and do not understand it. The author deliberately uses such imagery to convey the atmosphere reigning around her. To intensify the impression Kate Chopin uses the simile: “She carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (Chopin 130). All these stylistic devices help readers to feel the contrast of the situation and the character’s reaction to it.

Mrs. Millard’s happiness is so strong that when she finds out that her husband is alive and sees him at home, her heart fails. The readers know the reason of her death while all the characters of the story think it is a huge shock and joy that killed her.

It surprises how Kate Chopin manages to convey the suffering of all women of that time in a short narrative that describes events of one hour. She presents great and vital problems of human relationship, particularly between a husband and a wife, by the example of a woman who lived under the total control of her husband and could feel free only after his death. Her excitement about her husband’s death makes us ponder over their relations – how much the woman should have been oppressed by her husband that his death became a happy event for her. The very title of the story highlights the idea that just one hour can change all life and even lead to death.

In my opinion, the main theme of Kate Chopin’s story is the impossibility of self-development for women who are under the overall control of their husbands. They are unable to change the situation and suffer silently. The tragedy of the particular situation emphasizes the horrible situation in the whole society of the nineteenth century.
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