The Story of the Hour
The Story of the Hour, takes place in the late 1800's and is written by Kate Chopin. This short story is about a woman named Ms. Mallard who is married and has trouble with her heart. However, it's much deeper then a heart condition. She is living a stifled life like most women in the 1800's. Her thoughts and ideas are held prisoner to her husband's strong will.
Ms. Mallard is told by her sister Josephine and her husband's friend Richard in the most "gentle way possible" that her husband died in a railroad accident. Mrs. Mallard immediately reacts to the news and begins grieving. However, shortly after that she begins to see beauty creeping into her life like the sun's beautiful beams of light that shine behind dark clouds after a storm. And, as the clouds and sun struggle for their place in the sky Ms. Mallard's struggles with the feelings coming over her: feelings of freedom. Mr. Bentley Mallard's death gave Mrs. Mallard permission to live her life as she saw fit. His death removed the shackles of marriage in a way that was acceptable to society in the 1800's making it possible for her to be, "Free! Body and soul free!."
The author uses the words "free body and soul" for many reasons. One reason has to do with how husbands in that time completely possessed their wives, their property, their wife's body, and even her dreams and ideas. If you found yourself unhappy in your marriage a woman did not divorce her husband. That was totally unacceptable; society looked down on that divorce. However being a widow was completely acceptable in the community and in the eyes of God. After allowing herself to feel some joy in Mr. Mallard's death Ms. Mallard almost immediately checks in with what society expects her reactions to be when she will have to look at her husband in his casket and "she knows she will weep again" merely because it's a natural reaction. Unlike most women who have lost their husbands whether by sudden accident or unexpected sickness Ms. Mallard never stopped to wonder what her life would be like without Mr. Mallard, she never wonders how she will mange without him, those thought's never enter her mind. Instead of hopelessness she was hopeful and she was looking forward to a new life. Ms. Mallard's marriage was not one that was overflowing with love even though she "had loved him- sometimes". Perhaps Mr. Mallard ways made it difficult for Ms. Mallard to love him, Mr. Mallard seemed to be pushy, domineering and controlling surely she must have resented his ways. Ms. Mallard found comfort in knowing "there would be no powerful will bending her in that blind persistence way with which men and woman believe they have a right to impose" Ms. Mallard was joyful that it was over. Although the author never mentions anything about Ms. Mallard's faith I think it's fair to say that in all probability that the women in that day and age had some type of religious back round; and the sacrament of marriage was taken very seriously. As a result when Ms. Mallards continues to whisper "free body and soul free" I can't help but wonder if there was more to the meaning "soul free". Ms. Mallard was free from her husband the moment he died. She knew and even welcomed his death with great excitement "those coming years where she would be free to be on her own person". Ms. Mallard begins to see her future as second chance in life and she finds herself "praying that life might be long" were only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be to long". So what made Ms. Mallard free from the soul? Could it be the worlds she recited before God the day she married Mr. Mallard" Till death do we part" I think so. Upon Mr. Mallard's death Ms. Mallard fulfilled her commitment she made before God and now she was free not even her soul would be judged.
Ms. Mallard struggled with this at first when "she began realizing this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will". Ms. Mallard had accepted her way of life and she found the feelings coming over her to be objectionable. It was the battle between guilt and freedom that made her pulse beat fast. However, once she gave in to it, and she whispers the words under her breath "free, free, free," she felt her coursing blood had warmed and relaxed every inch of her body". There was freedom in saying the words out loud and that empowered her to look at her future life and all its possibilities. Ms. Mallard leaves her bedroom and "unwittingly carries herself like a goddess of victory down stairs" only to find out that her husband was a live this news kills her the moment she sees him standing at her door. "The doctor said she died of heart disease of joy that kills. Seeing her husband walk through the door was more of a kill joy then any thing. However in her death she remains free from the bondages her husband had on her.