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Feminism in the Story of an Hour

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English Comp II

Wylee Rogers M.A.

January 29, 2007

Feminism in “The Story of an Hour”

Feminism is an ideology dealing with women’s struggles for the same rights as men. It proposed that all women should be politically, economically, and socially equal to men. The idea arose in the 19th century and is synonymous with the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1900s. To get a glimpse of what many women were faced with in the 19th century, imagine the time when women were considered inferior and unequal to men. Women were discriminated against by males and treated like second class citizens. They did not have the right to vote and married women did not have the right to own their on land. When a woman got married, all of her property went to her husband. They were also condemned by the historic theory of male supremacy and ignorant Neanderthals in the sexist American society of the 19th century. According to author James M. Henslin, “Men tenaciously held on to their privileges and used social institutions to maintain their position, basic rights for women came only through bitter struggle” (320). During this time, women became enlightened about their God given rights which are eloquently stated in the United States “Declaration of Independence” as “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” (qtd. in Barnes, Schmidt, and Shelley). Women realized that these rights should apply to them too. They were not content with their unequal social, political, and economical statuses, so they became proactive by protesting. One author known for her feministic views was Kate Chopin. Chopin’s views of feminism inspired her to incorporate those views into some of her short stories and she became unpopular and shunned for her forward thinking. Her short story, “The Story of an Hour,” captures the essence of Chopin’s feministic views because the main character, Mrs. Mallard, becomes enlightened about her rights of liberty and happiness when her husband dies, and she becomes proactive by sacrificing her mortal life in order to retain her immortal freedom and happiness when it is found that her husband is not dead.

In “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard, the protagonist, is a young woman who is unhappily married to her husband. She is unhappy because she feels that she is not free and is trapped in her marriage. When Chopin implies that Mrs. Mallard is trapped in her marriage, it is suggested that she is trapped in her marriage by the social expectations of the 19th century rather than by her family or her husband. In the 19th century women were expected to get married and submit to the control of their husbands. Once married, women became the properties of their husbands. Most married women were not allowed to own land. I am sure that most married women felt like they were deprived of their freedom like Mrs. Mallard. Fortunately for Mrs. Mallard, her oppressing husband supposedly died in a tragic railroad accident leaving her physically free from his oppression.

When told the news of her husband’s tragic death by her sister Josephine, Mrs. Mallard does not react to it as most women would have with the “paralyzed inability to accept its significance” (Chopin 188). Instead, she quickly accepts the notion that her husband is really dead and does not question the legitimacy of it. This suggests to the reader that maybe subconsciously Mrs. Mallard had already thought about her husband dying because he was an older gentleman, and she wanted him to die so that she could be free. The reason I say that Mr. Mallard is an older gentleman is because in the 19th century young women marrying older men was considered the “norm.” The social “norm” of young women marrying older men is another example of Chopin implying that women were not free. They were not free to marry whom they wanted to marry. Instead, women married whom they were supposed to marry.

Mrs. Mallard spends only a brief amount of time grieving for her dead husband. The story states that Mrs. Mallard “wept at once with wild and sudden abandonment” (Chopin 188). She feels abandoned because her husband is no longer around and because women were set up to be dependent on men. They depended on them for money, food, and security. Mrs. Mallard feels alone and only partially whole. This shows that Mrs. Mrs. Mallard went blindly through life. She did not realize that there was more to life than being a submissive housewife.

Soon, Chopin states “the storm of grief had spent itself” (189). Mrs. Mallard goes into her room to be alone. This symbolizes that she felt alone without her husband. While in her room, Mrs. Mallard is searching to find an identity without her husband. Even though

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