"The Story of an Hour": Student Responses, 1996

Students of Ann Woodlief, Virginia Commonwealth University

When I first began reading "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard seemed to me an old woman and as we are told in the very first line, “afflicted with a heart trouble.” I was surprised in the eighth paragraph when Chopin tells us that "She was young," but even more interesting to me that she is described as having “a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression” which depicts her as being old for her age. The description of this repression is backed up when Chopin gives us the reason for Mrs. Mallard’s “monstrous joy” which reads thus “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.”  

After reading through this story the first time, I had many questions and many conclusions. For instance, it seems as if Chopin is showing us a social situation of the times with the woman as prisoner of her husband. It is common knowledge that marriages are not always about mutual love between two people and during the time that Chopin was writing, this was more often the case. Marriage was as much about monetary comfort, social status and acceptance as it was about possible love. There are no children mentioned in this story which makes me wonder if there was a sexual relationship between the Mallards. It seems from the description that Mrs. Mallard has been trapped in this marriage for a long time even though we know she is young. How young is she? Even though I say she is trapped, do not misunderstand me: I do not think this marriage is arranged, instead that she has been coerced by her society to marry despite what she may want to do in her heart and soul. I believe she does love her husband, but it is possible to love a man and not be married to him. This was not her case; if she were able (meaning a man would agree with her decision) and she did engage in a loving relationship with a man who was not her husband, she would have certainly been looked down upon. Is her heart condition purely physical or is it also psychological and emotional? We know the stereotypes, as Chopin did, that women are hysterical, timid, weak, irrational. Could it be that her heart condition is created by those tip-toeing around her in conjunction with her own emotional weaknesses?  

I find it interesting that her first name is only told to us after she hears of her husband’s death and when she feels the most free. Before this point she is referred to as Mrs. Mallard or “she,” and after this point when her husband returns home, she is referred to as “wife.” Chopin is pointing to something very interesting here which leads me back to the title of woman as “wife.” When Louise marries Bently she becomes Mrs. Mallard; she loses her identity and assumes a new and strange one. While it seems very normal and average for a wife to assume her husband’s name in marriage and in that time, to put it harshly, become the property of him, it cannot be ignored that a certain part of the self is lost. This woman is very in tune with this loss and even though her love for her husband keeps her from it, the freedom she feels when she thinks he is dead becomes unavoidable and enjoyable.  

Chopin wrote the story and has given us a narrator who, if it is not Chopin personally, I believe to still be female. The descriptions and insight we are given into the character of Louise come from someone who understands her situation and is forgiving. We see Louise as she finds happiness out of her husband’s death and yet, by the narration, we see her struggle with guilt and overcome it. From the female perspective, it could be argued that her death was really an ultimate freedom from her unhappy marriage. If we assume that the narrator is male, could it be that her death was a punishment for her happiness at the death of her husband? It is not as farfetched as it seems and raises many more questions as to the goal this story sets out to achieve.  

Kristene B.    

“The Story of an Hour” at first reminded me of “A Very Short Story” in the way that it leaves out details that that the reader needs to fill in the gaps and easily understand the plot of the story. It’s this “Swiss cheese” effect that makes the story so interesting; by allowing the reader to “plug in” his/her own details the story takes on varied connotations. An example of this is the beginning paragraph where the reader gets the impression that this woman is going to be extremely upset that her husband has died in a train accident. The people closest to her have gone to great lengths to cushion the blow of her husband’s death; however, we are not given any details as to the relationship they had in the past or any relevant information. By doing this the author allows the reader to form his/her own false interpretation of how this woman is going to react. We see this technique used early into the story and we, as readers, are strung along until we hear the woman utter the words “free, free, free” which really throws the reader off the track he/she expected to follow. The rest of the narrative begins to twist the story to the exact opposite of what the reader was waiting to have happen. We find a woman who instead of being upset and heart-broken over her husband's death is experiencing complete joy over the death of another human being. Which, of course, now gives us the impression that she has been mistreated in this relationship and that, perhaps, this death is for the best. All this makes the reader justify the way the woman reacted, but in the end it's Mrs. Mallard who dies upon seeing her husband alive and well. This ending definitely conjures up some questions that are difficult to answer.  

Ron B.   

This was a great story. I like Chopin even though she is an ardent feminist. Through the first read several things stood out. First you will notice how the woman of the story is simply referred to as Mrs. Mallard--an appendage of Brently Mallard---then when she is free she is referred to as Louise, her first name. Chopin is trying to say that marriage represses women and "bends the will." Even if marriage does bend the will Brently Mallard was still a good man, and his face never looked upon her with anything but love. She knows that this man loved her, but that is not enough for her to feel any love for him. Chopin does not seem to think that a man’s plans and intentions are bent for a relationship. Personally, I have never seen a working relationship that was totally one-sided. It is great that such a short little story could raise so many questions about the nature of relationships and what they mean to a woman like Chopin. She considers any intention that bends the will a crime, even if it is kind. There could be a thousand years of philosophical debate on that one point.  

In the way of characters I think Richards was an interesting character. His role seems so small, perhaps intentionally so. Chopin is trying to show that women can get along just fine without having men interfere. The major theme of the story represents a disdain for the way that women are treated in some relationships, and to a certain extent in society as well. It is hard for a male to give concrete examples of a female's place in society having never dealt with that stereotype. The late eighteen hundreds were a rough time for women and there weren’t the options, like divorce, that are now available to women. However in this story there is so much repression. You would think that this woman had been locked in a basement and fed bugs by Brently.  

Travis C.    

This is the story of a woman who finds out her husband has died in a train wreck. She reacts with sadness at first, but then realizes in a rush of emotion & relief that she is “Free! Body and soul free!” She views the world with a fresh outlook--one where she will be her own person, answering only to herself. She is ready to begin this new life when her husband--who evidently wasn’t on the train after all--comes home. The woman (Louise) dies from heart failure on the spot.  

I loved this little story--it takes a couple of twists and turns that makes the ending ironic and unobvious. The year the story was written (1894) is included, and this adds interest to the content of the story. The fact that Louise recognizes her oppression from the male-dominated society of the time is interesting to me. For some reason (I don’t know why) I haven’t read much work in which a woman of the time period speaks of feeling that a long life with her husband is undesirable. But when she realizes her husband is dead, Louise’s view of a long life changes from dread to hope.  

Louise is obviously the character of interest--through her we see the social repression that women felt at the time. Louise represents all women of the time. They were locked into marriages that were probably loving--at least Louise says her husband “never looked at her save with love”--but were oppressive in their treatment of women.  

The language of the story does a good job at conveying the emotions and feelings of the characters. Although Louise represents all women, she is different. Being told of Brently’s (her husband) death, she “did not take the news as many women have.” The choice of many is interesting. It shows that many women accepted (perhaps blindly) the situation of being controlled in their lives by their husbands.  

After being told the news of his death, Louise goes to her room and looks out the window. The language here foreshadows the ironic happiness that she feels at being set free. Instead of being gloomy and dark (the way weather is usually symbolized at the mention of death) the sky shows patches of blue (from between white, not black) clouds; birds are singing and there is a “delicious breath of rain” in the air.  

I can’t help but think that when Louise’s sister is calling to her through the door--“open the door--you will make yourself ill”--that she would believe Louise had made herself ill with all the talk of freedom. When she finally opens the door and walks out “like a goddess of Victory” I would think that her sister would notice and wonder why.  

When Brently returns, Louise drops dead. We know that she had a weak heart--it was explained that the train accident was explained carefully in order to prevent an adverse reaction--and the doctors assume that she died at his sight from the “joy” of seeing him. “The joy that kills” they called it. Those doctors, undoubtedly men, were unwittingly describing Louise’s marriage as well.  

Mark D.    

Chopin describes for us here a story of great irony. She introduces to us Mrs. Mallard; we know she is a woman with a heart condition and that she is unaware of her husband’s death. We then meet her sister, Josephine, who is reluctant to be the bearer of bad news. And also her husband’s friend Richards, whose significance in the story seems very ambiguous to me. We learn that there has been an accident, a railroad disaster, and that Mrs. Mallard’s husband, Brently, was deemed “killed.” There had been two telegrams affirming this, thus eliminating the possibility of an error. She immediately begins to grieve with “wild abandonment,” shortly afterwards she seeks solitude. In her solitude, we find her to be acutely aware of her surroundings and her senses, almost as if a dark cloud has been lifted from her soul and she can now live life to its fullest potential. For moments, we can see through her eyes, feel her chest heaving and hear the birds chirping. She feels something that she has forgotten she could feel. She is feeling the clouds being lifted from her soul, she is illuminated, she is free. She is overwhelmed with freedom, opening up her arms to welcome it, letting it envelope her body and her soul. She remembers her husband with kind memories, memories of time, memories that are now of the past. She is in the present and she is free! Her sister is concerned with her solitude and inquires of her well being. We learn that her name is Louise; she is no longer Mrs. Mallard, she is Louise, she has her own identity because she is free. She is reveling in her freedom, thinking of her freedom today and tomorrow, longing to have a lengthy life of her own. She opens the door to her sister with a sparkle in her eye and a new sense of herself. They descend the staircase together, meeting Richards at the bottom. Someone is opening the door. It’s Brently Mallard, unharmed and completely composed, unaware of the transformation that has occured with his absence. We hear a scream from Josephine and see Richards attempt to conceal the living dead from the view of the heart patient. But it is too late. She is dead. Mrs. Mallard’s heart stopped. Her life stopped. She had everything and nothing all in the same moment.  

This is a wonderful story, so well written and descriptive that we can be Mrs. Mallard. The omniscience of the narrator allows us this. We can see through her eyes, breathe through her lungs. We desire what she desires. This makes the story. The setting is perfect. She ascends the staircase to freedom, everything changes at the top of the stairs. We descend the staircase with her and everything is taken away. She dies of the joy that kills, irony to the end. Magnificent!  

This short story grabbed my attention from the moment I finished the first sentence to the end of the story. During the first few paragraphs I thought that she was very depressed and saddened from hearing about her husbands death. Of course as soon as she whispers the words “free, free, free!” I knew that she felt happy about her husband’s death. I detect that no one else knew of these feelings of contempt for husband but herself, or she would not have kept these feelings inside of herself.  

In the fifth paragraph, after just being told of her husband's death, she is very descriptive of everything that she sees at that moment, as if she wants to remember every detail of this moment. But why would one point out “delicious breath of rain,” “notes of a distant song,” and “sparrows were twittering in the eaves” at the time of their spouse's death? When I think of these things that she is describing they are happy scenes, scenes of serenity. This was my first clue that there was more going on in this story than just someone who lost her husband.  

Throughout the story you get the feeling from the wife that she was probably controlled by her husband and that their marriage was not a happy one at all. “The kind, tender hands folded in death”; this statement shocked me at first when I read it. Because I didn’t get the impression from her other comments that he was a kind and tender man, as a matter of fact I thought the exact opposite of him. But her next statement--”... the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead”--this was more of how I pictured this man to be. The words that she uses to describe him are very strong-- ”fixed,” “gray,” “dead”--these words are very harsh. It was in the next couple paragraphs of her describing her freedom that I began to feel very happy for her that he was out of her life.  

I think that it was very ironic for them to use the word “joy” in the last sentence of this story, because it was actual joy that she felt when she realized her husband was dead, and pain so great that killed her when she saw him walk through the door.  

Shajuana I.    

The first time I encountered this story, it was read aloud to me in a class that I took this fall. I thought it was most unusual, and I am glad I have the opportunity to read it now. The story has many surprises, twists and turns, and in the end I had nearly forgotten the poor dead husband, as I was happy for Mrs. Mallard’s release from such an unhappy existence.  

The first words that struck me as wonderful in this story were in lines 3 and 4: “veiled hints that revealed in half concealing.” What a beautiful way to describe breaking bad news. The words “veiled” and “concealing” are used in a wonderful way in the same sentence. I also like the description of the “storm of grief” Mrs. Mallard experiences. Weeping with “sudden, wild abandonment” is such an apt description of this emotion. So far I have not suspected that there is anything amiss with Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to the news of her husband’s death. After all, each and every human being has an intense range of emotions that are neither right or wrong--they simply belong to that particular individual. I also found nothing suspect in Mrs. Mallard retreating to her room--also perfectly understandable. Here, however, alone in the privacy of her room, is where the story started to turn for me.The description of what she saw when looking out her bedroom window hit me as odd--I remember times in my own life when overwhelming grief or shock has seized me. Nothing in the world looks right--certainly not happy or pleasant. Yet, there were “trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain . . . sparrows . . . patches of bue sky . . . ” These things tell me that she is seeing her life as now having a new look, and it seems to parallel the fresh, new, earthy and upbeat sights out of her bedroom window. I like the description of her emotional release when she sat “with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair . . . ” The sob described here really indicated emotional intensity--was she crying for joy, albeit guilty joy? “There was something coming to her....” this passage almost says “fasten your seatbelts, readers.” Mrs. Mallard has succeeded in gaining my sympathy here, as she is definitely resisting her feelings--feelings that are coming upon her like a tidal wave. I feel that she is really a decent, moral woman and wants to do the right thing-- she wants to have THE CORRECT GRIEF REACTION. Finally she accepts this reaction as being true--after all it has come upon her so powerfully, how could it be anything but an honest feeling? It was refreshing to see that her reasons for feeling this way were not because she was an abused and mistreated wife--not even because she hated her husband (I think she had tender feelings for him): she merely wanted time to herself! GO MRS. MALLARD! I have the feeling that Mr. and Mrs. Mallard had been married a while, and that she had felt “bound” by the restrictions of being in a relationship and this was an “out” that was dropped into her lap, so she’s gonna run with it. After all, she didn’t kill the man--it was Divine Intervention! The last line of paragraph 14 is “A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.” This says that it doesn’t matter that her husband probably didn’t intend to be so controlling and needy--but the effect upon her was the same.  

I relate to this story not in that I am a widow, but I have been divorced for five years after ten years of marriage. I too reacted with grief when my marriage ended, and I went through an incredible range of emotions. NOW, however, I revel in my freedom and independence. Not that I had a horrible marriage, but I did have to be part of a “couple” and there are responsibilities that go along with that which do infringe upon one’s freedom to establish her own identity. I was really sorry that Mrs. Mallard did not get the chance to do this. She was swimming in it--she was in overdrive imagining the possibilities about being “free, free, free!” I don’t think she felt guilty about it, nor should she have. She had loved him, yet what could love have do do with the feeling she was having now? So what if she loved him--he was dead but she was alive as she’d never been before . . . maybe even on the road so wrapped up in this fantasy, planning the rest of her life without her “ball and chain,” that when she saw this “ghost” walk through the front door, it hit her ten times harder than it might have had she not been adrift in her joy of being “suddenly single.” This too tells me that both Mr. and Mrs. Mallard must have been older people--there was a lot of history between them, a lot of years, and I imagine that her heart might have withstood the shock had she been a bit younger.  

[Later response, same person (the next semester in a women writers course)]: I understand and at times tend to agree with the argument that the author’s biographical information should stand apart from the work itself. In the case of Chopin, however, I do find it necessary, perhaps imperative, to incorporate her life experience into the meaning I gather from her work. I believe the events in her life greatly influenced her writing--from her father’s death in a railroad accident, when she was five years old, to the time after the death of her own husband. Chopin died young (44), yet she had twelve years of married life and twelve years of widowhood packed into those forty-four years. I find that interesting, and I feel it gave her a fair perspective of life as the “other half” in a marriage, and life as a woman alone. Chopin was another of the “pioneer feminists,” daring to write that women could actually exist, thrive, sans a man. She is credited with having the nerve to explore the sexual, emotional, and intellectual needs, or the very existence of these needs of women. That she had the fortitude to write about these “taboo” issues with great integrity in a time when women could only fantasize about equality, etc. is inspiring.  

Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble is surely two-fold--no doubt a physical defect exists, possibly exaggerated emotional strain--heart trouble, the intangible variety, unhappiness, misery, the sad state of one’s lot in life. Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble may have been psychological as well as biological--one can literally make oneself ill from worry, depression, etc. People do die of a broken heart.  

Mrs. Mallard “did not hear” the story as other women might--this shows how one-dimensional, clone-like women of Mrs. Mallard’s time were: there was an expected, acceptable emotional response for every life situation. Chopin makes an interesting commentary here about the necessity for women to express themselves as individuals--in times of joy, grief. I believe there was even a prescribed manner in which women were allowed to “swoon”--not a drop-dead faint, but a slow, feminine form of collapse.  

Lynda R.  

The things that I marked in the story were the references to Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition. The very first paragraph informs the reader of her heart trouble, and how her loved ones were so careful and cautious while breaking the news to her of her husband’s death. In paragraph 11, where Mrs. Mallard cries out “free, free, free!” her heart condition is no longer an issue (to herself) since her husband is dead. Her body is “warmed and relaxed.” At the end of the story, I found it ironic how Mrs. Mallard’s loved ones took spontaneous and startling means to protect her from the realization that her husband was indeed alive. They took little care and caution regarding her delicate heart condition. I thought these portions of the text were significant because there was some reference to Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition throughout the text. Maybe I missed the answers to these questions within the text, but I hope not. Why did Mrs. Mallard dislike her husband so much, that she could rejoice and feel reborn in his death? I guess that my reading experience could be categorized as emotional. In the first few paragraphs, my feelings were those of sympathy and pity for the sickly wife who just lost her husband. Around the eighth paragraph I experienced a little confusion, “Is she happy that her husband is dead?” At the eleventh paragraph I felt relief along with Mrs. Mallard. I felt her freedom. At the beginning of the next to the last paragraph, I felt nervous, anticipating the worst for Mrs. Mallard, that it would be her husband opening the door. I could feel the disappointment when the person opening the door was Mr. Mallard. After my first reading of the text, I thought of a character in a very popular novel, Celie of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. When Celie was young her father impregnated her and abused her. When he died, he left her his land and his house. Celie mourned for the benefit of those around her, but when they were gone and she was in the driveway of that house, she smiled and danced for joy. This is quite similar to the reactions of Mrs. Mallard.  

Monique M.  

My “first” response to this story is “I like it.” That is because it is not my first time reading it. The first time I read this story I was shocked by the ending and disappointed with her view of marriage. At the time of my first reading of this story, I was newly married and “high on love” so to speak. Therefore, I couldn’t possibly believe that someone could look at love and marriage in such a negative light.  

On reading the story this time around I see a much more positive side to the story. I probably also see it a little more objectively now. There are many signs of life in the story that represent a re-birth of this young woman. Prior to her husband's death she dreaded each day and was “pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body.” Now that he is dead she sees the potential for life (her life) with phrases like “new spring life, breath of rain, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.” Most of the story deals with her quick accepance of her husband's death and her quick acceptance of the new possibilities for her own life and soul. The title of the story would seem to reinforce this idea of quick acceptance. It indicates that her important transition took place within one short hour. Normally people take months to fully come to terms with the death of a family member. Mrs. Mallard, however, is quick to put it all into perspective.  

I think the location she has chosen to deal with this transition is important. She is in her bedroom in a comfortable armchair, which would seem to indicate she felt safe here. She seems to have found a remedy to life, which is her husband's death. The ending this time around is more ironic than shocking. She died because her potential for unhappiness was still alive (her husband).  

Jacqueline M.  

This story is both humorous and is valuable in a historical perspective. It is first a commentary on the feelings that a woman trapped into marriage during this time period may have experienced. Marriage may have seemed to be an interminable “trap” and the only “honorable” way out for a woman may have been through death of her husband. This story is ironic in that the narrator's death is attributed to being overcome with great joy, when in fact she died of a combination of shock and disapointment. I liked this story, and I think that despite the time that the story was written, it is very easy to relate to. It also presents the way death can encourage many different feelings at once. The narrator admits that she will probably miss her husband, but she can also see the years of freedom stretching into the future.  

Sunita R.  

I have read this story before so my first reading is actually a second or third reading. If I remember correctly my first response to it was amusement at the irony of the whole thing. I can understand how a woman can feel free from the husband that she has been with for a long time. He wasn’t bad to her, but all she was known as was Mrs. Mallard. I noticed that everyone had a first name at the beginning of the story except for Mrs. Mallard. It was not until her husband's supposed death that we find out her name is Louise. It’s like a spiritual freeing of the woman that was caged behind the man. Obviously she felt free because she said it over and over. “And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! 'Free! Body and soul free!' she kept whispering.” There were certain words that I saw that lent themselves to the mood of the story. “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.” The storm of grief that overcame her eventually led to “a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.” I think that everyone has experienced the feeling of being totally emotionally drained after dealing with something that was probably too much to handle in the first place. After you relax for a bit, there is a peaceful calm that slowly takes over your body and you feel totally at ease. At least I do. I think the mere fact that the situation is over lends itself to the feeling of freedom and the feeling that a terrible burden has been lifted off your shoulders. For Louise, being Mrs. Brently Mallard was a burden. Many women feel oppressed and overshadowed by their husbands. It is not necessarily something that the husband has done, it is just the personality of the woman who cannot be caged. Her storm of grief turned calm and suddenly “Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. 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 blue sky peeked through the storm and turned into the longing for days filled with sunshine and light. She wanted to live long and prosper on her own when just the day before she didn’t really want to prolong her life. I can throw some Emerson in here too because she was totally content within herself. She was ready for a long and happy life by herself. When her husband was alive, these feelings of hers were dead.  

Stephanie R.    

I’ve read a few other things by Kate Chopin, and “The Story of an Hour” fits into the body of her work very neatly. She foreshadows the end of the story blatantly, and if you’re at all familiar with her work, the ending is no surprise. It would be fitting that her supposedly dead husband’s return (safely) to the house would trigger her death, since she is, after all, “afflicted with a heart trouble.” Once she’s got her mind set on being “free” from her husband, she is completely unprepared to deal with being imprisoned behind him once again. Some words that caught my attention were especially in the second paragraph, with “broken,” “veiled,” “revealed,” and “half concealing.” Another item that caught my eye was that her husband was “leading the list of ‘killed’,” when he was, in reality, “far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know that there had been one.” Things that surprised me: she’s “young” but “afflicted with a heart trouble.” If she’s young, would she have had time to even feel imprisoned by her marriage? “And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery . . . ” If she’s young, why did she marry him if not for love? I suppose there isn’t room to address all of these issues in one short story. Perhaps Chopin is addressing the fact that not everyone at this time married for love--“The unsolved mystery”--is it unsolved because the woman doesn’t know what it is? She hasn’t felt it. She seems to never have loved this man that is her husband. She loves her new-found hour-long freedom, but not her own husband? Finally, “heart disease--of the joy that kills”--what’s that all about? Joy that kills? She’s happy to have him back? Is that what the doctor thinks? She’s heartbroken because her freedom was all imaginary, only an hour long. Is that what killed her? That’s been bothering me ever since I read it, which is, I suppose, the author’s intent.  

Caitlin S.    

As I read this story, I noticed there was a definite juxtaposition of woman and man. I found the character of Richards unnecessary. Simple exposition through Josephine could have easily explained the accident. While I’m on the subject of Richards--why was he “near” Mrs. Mallard? I don’t think it was entirely innocent because he had waited to “assure” himself of the husband’s death. What odd diction. The passage with Mrs. Mallard staring off out of the window of her room was the most significant in my opinion. The reason why is because the natural world (i.e., the blue patches of sky peeking out through the clouds, the tops of trees all aquiver, the breath of rain, etc.) mirrors Mrs. Mallard’s feelings. The world breaks open with new, spring life, just as Mrs. Mallard’s new life is about to begin. The phrase “a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips” is wonderful. “Free” is a very appropriate word to “escape” one’s lips. When Mrs. Mallard and Josephine descend from the top of the stairs to meet the two men, I couldn’t help but laugh. It seems that the women had to come down to the level of the men . . . kind of a descent into hell sort of thing . . . maybe I’m reading too much into it . . . did anyone else pick up on that? A major gap that I picked up on was the husband’s reaction to his wife’s death. I keep thinking that if Chopin had showed us a little more in that scene, that perhaps he, too, would feel “free.” I noticed, also, that Richards, who thinks himself the most tender, careful friend, doesn’t help out while Louise is upstairs. It’s her sister who helps her. Richards is downstairs twiddling his thumbs . . . yea, real tender, careful guy . . . so careful in fact that he fails in his final attempt to shield the sight of the husband from Mrs. Mallard. Also, the husband’s death was mentioned in one paragraph, but Louise’s journey of freedom took up the majority of the story. Definitely a woman-power story (for lack of a better term).  

Leigh W.    

I have read this story before. It’s one of my favorites. I don’t view Louise’s reaction to her husband’s death as a wrong way to react. Of course back in the 1800’s, the cultural “norm” was for a woman feel tremendously grievous, and distraught over the death of her husband. Back in those days a woman’s worth was primarily based on who she was married to.  

I don’t think Louise was necessarily happy her husband died. At the beginning of the story after she learned of his death it says, “She wept at once with sudden, and wild, abandonment in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself, she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.” That doesn’t spell out joy to me. I think she went into her room not knowing what to feel. While she was in there “soaking in” her environment she began to realize certain things. One monumental thing was that life was moving on despite her husband’s death. When I say that, I’m referring to the mentioning of “the new spring life, the delicious breath of rain, the street caller, the open window, the open square.” Ultimately she decided to view her husband’s death as an opportunity to become a part of that life in ways that she never had before.  

Well, as we all know, Louise’s husband did not die. I think the irony of the ending is what ties the story up so well. She didn’t have a heart attack when she heard of his death, she had one when she saw him alive. The narrator wants the reader to believe that she died of disappointment at seeing her husband alive. I’m going along with that. I also don’t think she died of joy either. It’s obvious that the narrator believes that the other characters thought she died of the “joy that kills.” Chopin does an excellent job at convincing the reader that the other characters were clueless. She died of shock. Can you imagine finding out that your spouse is dead, and accepting it one way or the other, and then seeing that they are actually alive? Regardless of your feelings for them, it's going to affect you tremendously. Unfortunately, Louise’s heart could not handle the shock.  

Just out of curiosity. . . does anyone have any ideas about what the title of the story suggests? What about the idea that Louise may have died of guilt? Maybe she thought her husband was actually a ghost. She did scream when she saw him.  

 Megan G. 

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