“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

21Jan05

Geez, this is going to bug me! I’ve read this story before, but I don’t remember in what context.

Obvious reading: a woman free from man’s influence finally experiences a sense of true freedom and the harsh retraction of that freedom, and prospect of returning to an oppressive lifestyle, leads to the most drastic rebellion, or alternative, DEATH.

This story…..is a little harsh. I suppose I should take historical context into account, but the ending still comes off as a little harsh, considering how little the reader knows about Brently Mallard. Granted, Chopin mentions that Louise felt trapped in her marriage, but Brently does not come across as a complete monster. If he did, then perhaps I would understand the deadly reaction Louise had to Brently not being dead after all. As it is, Chopin seems to suggest that marriage is a prison for women. And why does she have to be like that?

The description of Louise’s emotions when she is coming to terms with Brently’s death is rather, er, sexual:

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will—as powerless as her two white hands would have been.

When she abandoned herself, a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “Free, free, free!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

This “something coming to her”—perhaps her liberation—seems to almost rape her, but her ultimate embrace of the “something” mimics an orgasm.

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