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Feminism and Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour

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Feminism and Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour
“The Story of an Hour” is the story of liberal feminism. According to Clugston, Chopin’s work was a contributor to the rise of feminism (Clugston, 2010). I have recently become aware of many reasons that feminism is a failed experiment, and this was a major reason that I connected with the story. It was not a connection of seeing myself as the character, but rather a negative connection. The story “struck a nerve” with me, as the saying goes, because of my recent history. Liberal feminism likes to diminish the role of the male to practically nothing, and Louise Mallard’s response to her husband’s death shows just how much Louise truly cared for him. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is practically a handbook for the supposedly oppressed women who championed the cause of liberal feminism, most obviously in her joyousness of her new-found freedom rather than grief and melancholy of her husband’s death.
The approach used in this critique was the Formalist Method. The literary tools of the author, such as foreshadowing, metaphor, and dramatic irony, are examined to determine their effect on the work itself.
The author foreshadowed heart problems in the very first line: “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble” (Clugston, 2010). The expected initial response to the news was “a paralyzed inability to accept its significance,” and perhaps even a grief-induced heart failure (Clugston, 2010). Instead, she instantly starts crying, then retires to her room. Chopin then uses several symbols for new beginnings while describing the view from her window: “new spring life,” “delicious breath of rain,” “a distant song,” “countless sparrows . . . twittering in the eaves,” and “patches of blue sky showing” (Clugston, 2010). Chopin even mentions the clouds “piled one above the other,” showing that Louise could have focused on the grief and sadness, but instead focuses on her new, free, life (Clugston, 2010).
At first, when Louise starts to feel the inkling of her true response, she fights against it, but weakly. She is afraid of what it might mean to feel happiness in this sorrow. It overcomes her, though, as she starts chanting “free, free, free” under her breath (Clugston, 2010). She then realizes that she had often not loved her husband, likely because he “impose[d] a private will upon a fellow-creature,” which is something liberal feminists rebel against (Clugston, 2010).
As she embraces this new emotion in freedom, the author starts using metaphor and simile to show how Louise is adjusting. She is “drinking in a very elixir of life,” renewing her love of life and anticipating many long years of happy freedom (Clugston, 2010). She “carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory,” feeling as though she were the victor in a struggle against matrimony (Clugston, 2010).
Finally, Chopin ends “The Story of an Hour” with a bit of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is used to indicate when the audience knows the truth about a situation, but the characters do not. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills” (Clugston, 2010). The characters all assume that Louise, upon seeing her husband alive, would be overjoyed. None of them knew about her acceptance of freedom in her bedroom chair, and none of them realized that her heart gave out, according to the foreshadowing mentioned earlier, due to the shock of having that freedom taken away.
The liberal feminist movement has sought to eliminate matrimony and motherhood as expected norms of womanhood, saying that women have been oppressed for all of history, and casting men as perpetrators of this injustice. That Kate Chopin’s work, particularly “The Story of an Hour,” was associated with the rise of feminism in this sense is not surprising. Louise embraces the realization that she has felt repressed and oppressed in her relationship with a husband she did not love, even though she admits her husband always loved her.

Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into Literature. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/AUENG125.10.2/sections/ch00


07/02/2011 - Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking


  1. You submitted this for a grade? That’s sad…

    Comment by ijagrg | 04/25/2013 | Reply

    • May I ask why “That’s sad…”? Common courtesy would say that before posting a negative comment on someone else’s work, you’d at least explain your stance. Thanks for reading.

      Comment by Jennawynn | 04/25/2013 | Reply

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