“The Story of an Hour, ” is a satirical short story by Kate Chopin set in the twentieth century. The story portrays the life of Louise, a housewife whose happiness knows no bound upon hearing of her husband’s death – caused by rail accident – only to realize he was in fact alive; the shock and disappointment of which cause her own demise. The thematic exposition of the story centers on the treatment of women as second class citizens, a social ill widely practiced in the 19th and 20th century. It is against this gender inequality that the author wrote the story. We shall however on our part highlight these pointers of gender inequalities as exposed in “The Story of an Hour. ” Since we agree with the author that indeed, a female degeneration and degration has stained the history of humanity.
The first point raised by Chopin in the story is perhaps that which associates “maleness” with identity; without a husband or father, a female cannot claim a surname or complete name in the traditional and social context. Hence the story started by calling Louis “Mrs. Mallard” instead of her own name. She was, in fact, merely addressed or pointed out as “she” throughout the story until the moment she felt herself “free” after the supposed death of her husband. The patriarchal privilege of naming women as essentially the commotion of men – as daughters and wives – was highlighted by Kate Chopin as the first most obvious source of gender shaming and degration with females at the receiving end.
Men are also presented in the story as possessing freedom to do as they please and love whoever they desire while there exist no hint of the same benefits for women. As portrayed in the story, Bentley Mallard loved his wife as his was “the face that had never looked save with love upon her,” she however, had only loved him “sometimes “. Hence, we are provided with two individuals: one – male, Bentley Mallard – get all he wanted in measures of love and freedom and going out as he pleases; the other – female, Louise Mallard, lacks freedom and opportunity to choose who to love. Her lack of freedom was echoed in her single act of getting fresh air away from those that have come to comfort her where it anticipate a life lived solely for herself as she whispered “free! Body and soul free!”
Kate Chopin also alluded to the male’s control of narrative as a pointer to the gender inequalities and female degration rampant in the 19th and 20th century. A lucid illustration of this is the doctors’ proclamation of Louise Mallard’s death as being caused by a “heart disease – of joy that kills” whereas
what she felt and the cause of her death were abandonment, need for freedom, life of being an afterthought and a second class citizen; since nothing like “joy” which the doctors so authoritatively pronounced was the case. Another illustration of the male narrative is the general assumption that clouded all the other characters as regards Louise, since they all assumed that she would miss her dead husband and needed to be comforted for losing him. This however was not the case as Mrs. Mallard was relieved by her husband’s supposed demise.
The story as aforementioned brings into fore the prejudice and silent sufferings of the female population. We are able to assert through an analysis of Kate Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour” that women were in fact treated as lesser humans with the purpose of “helping” their superior male counterpart. The importance of this story is even more pronouncable in our societies and current socia consciousness as the fight for equality of the sexes wax higher.