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Literary Analysis: The Story of an Hour

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The story presents a critical situation, which is reflected in marriage. Overall, marriage is usually considered a lifelong commitment in which individuals bind themselves in love. However, this story presents this aspect in a different way. In the story, marriage has been described as bondage. Ms. Mallard appears excited on hearing about the death of her husband, ‘free, body and soul, free’ (Chopin par. 13). From this, the story tends to identify marriage as a restrictive setting that does not allow individuals to partake activities they would want to. This highlights the general desire for autonomy individuals have in marriage. Generally, humans tend to lean on self-sufficiency and long to do things their way; this freedom, however, is lost when one commits to the institution of marriage. Judging from the time span when the story was written, the issue of experiencing independence despite being married appears to have been vital. Women seem to have been restricted from pursuing their goals; this is presented by the way Mallard reacts to the information concerning the death of her husband. The story gives the impression that women were not allowed to have an independent life, they were however required to stay at home and cater for their husbands and families. It appears that the duties prescribed to the women tended to discriminate them from exercising their sovereignty. With the information concerning death, Mallard is relieved and begins to fantasize about the things she can do without being answerable to anyone.

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The author has seemingly utilized a number of literal elements, which tend to bring out the creativity and anticipated meaning of the story. At the outset is the use of symbols. In the story, the writer has creatively presented Mrs. Mallard’s feeling of freedom and relief following the demise of her husband using the symbol of spring, “… were all aquiver with the new spring life” (Chopin par. 5). This statement portrays the fresh start perceived by Mrs. Mallard following the news of her husband’s death. Spring is a season usually considered a relief after the harsh weather of winter. In this context, the marriage life experienced by Mrs. Mallard appears to have been tormenting to her. This is why she seems relieved when she hears that her husband is dead. She plans of the life she expects to live ahead, one in which she will not have to answer to anyone. Conversely, Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition at the start of the narrative is a major symbolism that the writer uses to bring out the irony of the story; much care is taken in breaking the sad news to her, but she eventually dies when her husband returns unharmed.

Contemporarily, the return of a loved one should be taken with joy and laughter; this is however contrary in the case of Mrs. Mallard, who succumbs to death despite the initial precautions taken to present the poignant news to her. At the start, Mrs. Mallard is presented with the sad news in a cautious manner. This is because of the state of her failing heart, “…great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death” (Chopin par. 1). Mrs. Mallard’s failing heart can be taken to refer to her unaccomplished dream of wanting to live in freedom. Similarly to her heart disease, which eventually leads to her demise, Mrs. Mallard’s dream of a free life dies after a short fantasy on realizing that her husband survived the accident. The title of the story also seemingly can be considered as a symbol of the limited time, in which the protagonist visualizes a life of freedom that does not happen.

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