Louise Mallard: A Complex Woman
In "The Story of an Hour" Kate Chopin introduces us to a woman living in the oppressive times of the nineteenth century, Louise Mallard. She appears to be an old lady with a bad heart who is blindly living in a bad marriage, like everyone else at the time. However, a closer look at Louise reveals a more complex woman: a spiritual and fragile, young woman who is aware of her incarcerating marriage.
When I first began reading "The Story of an Hour", my first impression of Louise was that she was an old woman with heart trouble. I was surprised in the eighth paragraph when Chopin tells us that "she was young, with a fair, calm face" (paragraph 8). We are informed that, even in her youth, Louise is "afflicted with a heart trouble" (paragraph 1). Even so, I believe that her heart trouble is more than just a physical ailment. It's an important part of who she is. Louise has heart trouble, but it doesn't necessarily mean that she is old. The story uses specific details from her family suggesting that she is old, but she actually isn't. There are also two more references to Louise that indicate old age. One is when her sister Josephine, insists that Louise "will make herself ill" (paragraph 17) if she does not open the door and come out of her room. This suggests that Louise's family expects her to be physically hurt by the terrible news concerning her husband, Brently. Another reason to believe that Louise is an older woman is when her sister used "veiled hints" (paragraph 2) to reveal Brently's death. This indicates that
Louise's family thought she was unable to handle too much information. They were cautious and concealing when they told Louise what had happened to Brently.
Chopin wrote this short narrative to depict the oppression of women in the nineteenth century. In doing so, she used Louise to represent women of the time who were locked into marriages that were oppressive in their treatment of women. However, Louise is not oblivious to this, she is clearly aware of her marriage and her surroundings. We see this when Louise first hears the news about Brently's death. Unlike most women who find themselves in denial after being told something of this magnitude, "she wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms" (paragraph 3). Paragraph three also clarifies this by adding, "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance." Though Louise was different from most women in her reaction to Brently's sudden death, she was indeed similar when considering the nature of her marriage. The words "abandon" and "escape", in paragraph eleven, suggest that Louise was imprisoned by her marriage to Brently. Later she says, "There would be no one to live for during those coming years." (paragraph 14). This statement relates to the nineteenth century myth that...