Feminist Analysis: “The Story of an Hour”
“The Story of an Hour” has the main character Mrs. Mallard show thoughts and emotions that can support and go against the feminist theory. At the beginning of the story, Mrs. Mallard is overcome with grief with the loss of her husband. This shows that the female is an emotional person compared to men. It was natural to know that she would be upset with the death of her husband, but the story had both her sister and her husband’s friend be there to break the news to her. Mrs. Mallard has heart problems which can make the reader see her as a weaker person right at the beginning of the story. From the start, we as readers are told to see Mrs. Mallard as a naturally weaker character.
Another way to make Mrs. Mallard appear as a weaker person was when she went to her room alone to continue her grief. After she enters her room she goes to the chair and the story says, “Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.” This shows us that her strong emotions caused her physical exhaustion. Not only was she emotional, but now the story shows that Mrs. Mallard can’t even handle it physically either. It goes even further to say that the weakness even goes into her soul.
After she sits down, Mrs. Mallard begins to appear as a stronger woman which is where the feminist theory takes effect. She looks out of the house through the large open window which could also signify the open opportunities available to her now. She begins to see how her marriage made her into a lesser person. She realizes that she has been living her life through limitations caused from being married. Mrs. Mallard knows that she can begin to live for herself. The story says, “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.” This quote shows the feminist theory that it was assumed women were oppressed and shows the patriarchal ideology. She was bending her will and freedom to a white man that held all of the control in the relationship. Marriage, in this story, appears to be the male having complete control over the woman. It also seems like Mrs. Mallard thought that she wasn’t even allowed to have her own thoughts which was probably true. To question your husband at this period in time meant that you were being an out of control wife.
Mrs. Mallard goes on to realize how much she really didn’t love her husband. She doesn’t feel the need to have guilt over it since he is already gone. She finally breaks away from the role forced onto her as the perfect wife and can begin to stop holding herself back. This can show the reader that a woman at this time might not even be aware of just how much of herself she has to hold back when married. It seems like Mrs. Mallard didn’t allow herself the thoughts of being completely free from him and what she will be able to do when he’s no longer around, until he was actually dead.
I think that the story also shows how Mrs. Mallard develops her own identity. As a reader, we are told that her name is Mrs. Mallard at the beginning. Through her grief of losing her husband she is still Mrs. Mallard to us. This shows that her title is really just the name given to her with her husband’s last name. She has no identity as her own; she is just a woman that belongs to Mr. Mallard. After she realizes how free she is, we begin to see her as an actual person. Her emotions and thoughts aren’t about her dead husband anymore; instead it’s about her living without limits. She comes into her own individual person. It is right after these thoughts that we hear he sister calling her Louise. Her being called by her given name can signify that she is now an equal to men. She is no longer being held back by the role of a wife.
“The Story of an Hour” also shows how the thoughts of a woman can change without the limitations. Mrs. Mallard thought of time differently after the death of her husband. The story says, “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.” The death of her husband gave her a new look of life in her future. Now that she could live for herself, she wanted nothing more than to have a long time to enjoy it. When she was forced into the role of timid and obedient wife, she didn’t see a point in living. She would have rather died young then to have to obey her husband for the rest of her life. With this freedom came the irony of the story. After she says this, her husband walks into their home and she realizes that he wasn’t really dead all along. She finally allowed herself to think of her life as living for herself. I think that the shock and disappointment in not being allowed the new life is what killed her. She got her wish in the end and lived a short life, which is what she wanted all along if she was forced to live her life for her husband. It seems like her body gave her what her mind wanted. It is also ironic because like in the beginning, she is made to appear to be a weaker character because of her heart condition. In the end, this weakness is what everyone thinks killed her, and not her resistance of being put back into the role that was forced and expected of her.