Kate is where she finds the most true form

Kate
Chopin was an author of American origins who was born in February, 1859 and
died in August, 1904. In the opinion of a certain scholars, she is believed to
have been a predecessor of the feminist movement which took place in the 20th
Century. She mainly wrote short stories and novels, some of her best known works
being “The Awakening”, “Desiree’s Baby”, or “The Story of an Hour”, which is
analyzed in this paper. (Wikipedia, Kate Chopin)

At
the center of this short literary work, “The Story of an Hour”, is the female
protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, who receives the unfortunate news that her husband,
Mrs. Mallard, has been killed in an accident. Because she suffers of “heart
trouble” (Chopin, 2015), the news must be told in a considerate
way. What is interesting is the fact that she reacts immediately, weeping “at
once, with sudden, wild abandonment”, and not like other females would “with a
paralysed inability to accept its significance”. (Chopin, 2015) After this, she goes
into her room to be alone, to collect herself and her thoughts. This is where
Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of “a room of one’s own” is visible. The necessity
of a private space, a place where women can be 100% themselves it is crucial
for Mrs. Mallard also, because this is where she finds the most true form of
herself – in the solitude of her room, where she has an epiphany.

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A
significant moment for the main character is here, in her room, when her
feelings and thoughts come rushing in. She senses that, after her initial
reaction, what she is about to feel is relief and even more, “a monstrous joy”.
Her first impulse is to suppress it with all her power. This, in Freudian terms,
would qualify as a battle between the SUPER-EGO and the ID. The SUPER-EGO of
the character is telling her that what she is feeling is not socially correct
or acceptable, and she, as a good wife, should never do that. And she really
tries to suppress these feelings: “she was striving to beat it back with her
will – as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been” (Chopin, 2015). She is aware of the
fact that she should be mourning her husband, and she is convinced she would,
because, after all, he was an important part of her life, but at the same time,
“she feels elation at her newfound independence.” And she is not prepared to
give it up so soon. (Sparknotes: The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin) This was Mrs.
Mallard’s last attempt to stay, because the ID won and Louise was “born”. (Bloom, 2007)

Kate
Chopin criticizes the patriarchal society in a more subtle manner, and that is
linked to the identity of the main character. In the beginning, she is
presented as “Mrs. Mallard”, which means that in those moments, her identity was
possible only through her husband’s, since she carries his name. Only after the
revelation in her room she becomes her most true self and she has a new name:
Louise. As long as she had a husband, her identity as an female was not
possible. The man in her life was her identity. Chopin criticizes the
phalocentrism, the fact that women cannot simply belong to themselves and the
inequality between the sexes clearly visible in this situation.

Looking
at the story with a Freudian eye, Mrs. Mallard is a very good example of a
repressed person in an oppressive marriage. Even if her husband was not a bad
or abusive man and “she even loved him – sometimes”, she feels trapped in her
marriage (Chopin, 2015). This is best seen
in the moments when she realized that, with her husband gone, “she would live
for herself”, and “there would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence” (Chopin, 2015). It is clear with those lines that
there were enough occasions in which Louise had to surrender her own wishes and
preferences in order to accommodate her husband’s or had to act certain ways
that were against her desires because that was required of her. This ultimately
led to her suppressing the discomfort and uneasiness given by her husband or
marriage and becoming Mrs. Mallard, the “acceptable” woman, perfect for the
phallocentric society. (Weng, 2014)
This explains why Louise is thrilled for the prospect of a long life and even
prays for one, when only a few days earlier, as Mrs. Mallard, she was scarred
of this possibility.

The
idea of repression is reinforced when Mrs. Mallard is described by the author
herself: she is young, with a “calm, fair face”, but there are lines in her
face that “bespoke repression” (Chopin, 2015). Also, the “heart
problem” mentioned in the beginning of the story can be interpreted as the sign
of a marriage that oppressed her. Due to the imprecision of the actual illness,
the “heart problem” can be interpreted both as a physical malady and an emotional
deficiency regarding her husband, which determined her to repress her feelings (Sparknotes: The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin). During her time in
her room, when she realizes that she belongs to herself only, it is mentioned
that her “heart was beating fast” and she did not seem to have any health
problems at all, even if the people around her were concerned with that.

After
some time, Louise decides to come down from her room. She is now transformed,
she has the posture and the dignity of “a goddess of Victory”, which implies
the idea that a woman on her own, with a personal identity is an extremely
powerful creature, maybe even a superior person. The fact that she comes out
victorious shows that there was a battle and she won it, and at some point in
her life, every woman must face a similar battle.

The
ending of the story is not nearly as optimistic as Louise’s attitude since her
husband comes back home, alive and well, not even knowing of the existence of
an accident. His entrance in the house is the moment when Louise realizes that
she has to become “his wife” again, Mrs. Mallard, her socially imposed self, is
obligated to surrender her freedom and identity to SUPER-EGO. But the ID is
stronger and does not crumble. So the only option for Louise to remain herself
is death. In her case, death may even be her EGO trying to reconcile the
SUPER-EGO with the ID or it may be viewed as an escape because in death,
everyone is equal: man and woman, black or white, poor or rich. But in the end,
Louise remains a Goddess of Victory since she chose to defy the society’s
phallocentric views and conceptions and stayed herself, even if she had to die
for that.

In conclusion, Kate
Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” can be both interpreted in a feminist manner,
since the main character secretly earns for equality of sexes and personal
identity, not one that depends entirely on another male, but also as a battle
between the conscious and the unconscious, between the ID and the SUPER-EGO of
a person who listens, in the end, to the more powerful force – ID.

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