Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour marks a significant step in the history of literature for its’ feminist message and intense delivery of immense emotional content in a short story. The plot centers around the main character receiving news about her husband’s life being abruptly cut short in a train accident. This paper will analyze the three of the story’s characters: Louise Mallard, her husband Brently Mallard, and her sister Josephine and the message that the author delivered through the characters.
The story predominantly focuses on the emotional journey that Mrs. Mallard experiences once she receives the news about the train accident. Thus, the majority of the narration expresses her emotions and realization of the uncertainty of the future. To emphasize the dramatization of the story and signal to the reader how things will eventually turn out, from the beginning, the author states that Mrs. Mallard has “heart trouble” (Chopin, 817). Although heart troubles are mainly associated with older women, Mrs. Mallard is young and has a fair, calm face, which indicates to the reader that she could be beautiful. The author notes how despite her beauty, her face has a shadow of repression and strength. The author does not state directly that a young and beautiful woman does not deserve living in repression; however, she paints a contrasting image that predicts Mrs. Mallard’s thought process. According to Yazgi, the author’s use of Mrs. Mallard’s free indirect thoughts emphasizes the true nature of her impulses (149). Although it takes her some time to realize that with the death of her husband, her suppression is now over, after realizing that she is now free from the shackles of her marriage, she feels triumphant.
In her emotional crisis, the main character is accompanied by the second female character, her sister Josephine. There is not much known about the sister, but judging by that she lives at her sister’s house, one could suggest that she is younger than Louise. In expressing her concerns about her sister, Josephine desperately begs Louise to open the door, afraid of the consequences of her sister’s emotional state. In the analysis article on the Story of an Hour, Paudel points how the sister calling to Mrs. Mallard as Louise helps the main character regain her identity (99). As Josephine thinks that hearing about the husband’s death could make a woman ill, one could suggest that Josephine finds nothing wrong with the organization of the society and female suppression.
As the story focuses on the feminist message, there is not much talked about the main male character, the husband. Although the story and Mrs. Mallard’s push to gain control over her own life comes from her husband’s death, his existence in the story is limited. Before Mrs. Mallard could realize her freedom at the beginning of the story, one could sense the consequences of Mr. Mallard’s death in the narration. After Louise discards the memories about her husband and even finds herself unable to tell if she even ever loved him, Mr. Mallard disappears from the story. His sudden arrival at the end of the story symbolizes the return of repression and the end of Mrs. Mallard’s freedom. Mrs. Mallard dies, unable to deal with the loss of her newly gained freedom.
In conclusion, the character analysis of the three characters showed that each character plays a vital part in the story’s progression and conveys the author’s message. The main character’s story shows how important freedom is for an individual’s mind and emphasizes how unbearable it is to live under control. The sister symbolizes the people who prefer to submit to the order in society, and the husband acts as a symbol of repression that emphasizes how freedom matters more than love.
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour”. The Complete Novels and Stories (The Greatest Writers of All Time), by Kate Chopin, Book House Publishing, 2020, 817-821.
Paudel, Kishor. “Existential Angst in Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour”. NCC Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, 2019, pp. 97-99. doi:10.3126/nccj.v4i1.24742.
Yazgi, Cihan. “Tragic Elements and Discourse – Time in The Story of an Hour”, The Explicator, vol. 78, 2020, pp. 147-152. doi: 10.1080/00144940.2020.1844121.