Kate Chopin essay: feminism and woman emancipation

society / kate chopin / patriarchy / feminism / freedom / women / emancipation / social norms

"The Story of An Hour" Kate Chopin

Mallard and Nuttel are the main protagonists of "The Story of An Hour" by Kate Chopin (1894). The ideas that have been expressed in the story help to shape the general idea about the society that created the characters of Mallard and Nuttel. In my paper I will attempt to prove that Kate Chopin explores feminine selfhood in a patriarchal society. The story reveals the reader the heroine’s spiritual journey to freedom that eventually became the main topic of the “The Story of an Hour.”

The main peculiarity of this story is Chopin’s specific presentation of societal problems. In this story, Chopin presents us with a picture of standardized society. Living in complicated and complex often hampered the development of an individual. The same situation occurred with the development of Louise Mallard’s whose spiritual awakening was triggered by the false news of her husband’s death in a train accident. The author reveals the story of Louise, a pioneering feminist, who tries her best to realize herself in this life. As a result, Louise Mallard is constantly searching for selfhood and freedom. One day a person has found herself to be a victim of masculine forces that prohibited her from normal realization in this society.

One of the researchers who decided to delve into the essence of Chopin’s writings was Lawrence I. Berkove. He was one of the few persons who suggested the following argument to the readers: “Louise is sick, emotionally as well as physically” (Berkov 156). The researcher also questioned the emotional well-being of Louise, who was described as someone who is not thinking clearly and coherently. Berkov even mentioned the fact that Louisa might have been suffering from an “early stage of delusion” (Berkov 156).

It is hard to state whether Berkov was right or not. Still, one thing is definite: Chopin’s exploration of feminine selfhood and freedom is one of the main topics of her story. The idea of feminism as well as that of womanhood is being presented to the reader in a rich and colorful literary style. It is especially true when we are talking about the use of symbolism and ironies.

Of special importance for me is Chopin’s presentation of Louise’s self-assertion. I want to point to the fact that this feature is presented to the reader in a rather positive and sympathetic manner. While presenting his idea that author is eventually acknowledging that Louise’s search for ideal feminine selfhood and freedom that is being realized under the circumstances of a hostile environment of a patriarchal society. The task is very difficult to realize since a person has to face a strong denial of her ideas.

Refutation and powerful resistance comes from the conventional institutions such as marriage, family, friends and other social establishments. The death of Louise has brought new changes to the story. During a whole span of time, Chopin clearly implies that any woman’s search for ideal feminine selfhood is a thing that is rather impossible in an age dominated by patriarchs. The same can be told about Louise’s search for selfhood and feminine emancipation. That very idea has been obviously presented by Chopin who manages to show her visionary foresight. The presence of this foresight is very important for people who live in the era of feminism.

In his reading of “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin clearly shows the reader that the author is very ironic about the societal norms. The plot analysis shows that people’s presumptions were predominately based on stereotyping rather than on sound thinking. The points that have been developed within the text prove that there is a place for textual references.

Heart trouble is rather symbolic thing. It means that Louise is not a mentally or emotionally sick woman. I would consider her more of an idealistic innocent woman having a heart trouble. The trouble is being viewed on both physical and emotional level. In general, a person presents the reader with a picture of a complicated and complex development of Louise’s spiritual journey. This journey is being referred to as the journey to her selfhood. The journey is triggered by the false news of her husband’s death in a train accident.

The spiritual journey of Louise starts by her going upstairs to her own room. The act is symbolic in its essence since it helps a person to elevate herself into a spiritual world. This world is full of inspiration. When to describe a whole issue in symbolic terms, one can see that setting of Louise’s room with an open-window is full of signs of a potential new life. In fact, the territory outside the open window shows the reader the sprouting tops of trees, the fresh breath of air, and the sweet song. The other things that accompany a whole scene include the countless twittering sparrows and the open square. Even the clouds are filled with vigor, energy and liveliness.

The idea of expectation is one more thing to be covered in my essay. The Open Window by H. H. Munro is just an example of the story based on expectation motive. A lonely person waiting for her husband and brother to come backs becomes the main motive of The Open Window by H. H. Munro. Again, expectation is rather symbolic things. In my opinion it symbolizes the society’s craving for changes that should be implemented.                                  "The Story of An Hour" Kate Chopin has the same features that are concerned with the use of largely symbolic terms. In the case with Kate Chopin death is exploited as a quest for changes.

Living is the society based on norms and stereotypes made the dream for freedom rather a dream than the reality. In the majority of cases it was the society and its fake nature that prohibited people from true realization and self-expression. Both of the stories prove that individual cravings of the people are not enough to make them free. In fact they have to conform with the norms of the society that does not accept the style of life of such people. That problem became the main reason why Chopin/Munro’s main heroes proved to be a failure in realizing their wishes and desires.

To summarize, both Chopin and Munro are rather dissatisfied wit the way the society is functioning. It seems that the author is not going to agree with the societal norms. Still, their individual wish does not seem to bring a positive outcome.


                                                         Works Cited

Berkove, Lawrence I. “Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopin's ‘The Story of an Hour’.”

American Literary Realism 32, no. 2 (winter 2000): 152-58.

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter et al. 3ed ed. Vol. 2. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998: 536-8. 2 vols.

Munro H. H., The Open Window. New York University Press. 2000.


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