Freedom & “The Story of An Hour”

Death complicates the meanings of usually positive outcomes like healing, or freedom, and they become what they are through an extreme method. Those who are sick or bound wish for healing and freedom, but they may not get it the way they had hoped for. This, I believe is the case of Louise Mallard. She was married to a man whom she “sometimes” loved. It was not explicitly said in this story that she was unhappy in this marriage; she did mourn the death of her husband. Love was present, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I believe she goes through a process in this hour and processes usually aren’t sudden, however, processes don’t need to take forever. She had her time to reflect and grieve, and as the story progresses we see that there is a gradual change.

Paragraph 9 says: “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it,  creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.”

I believe that is the moment where the emotional shift takes place; the moment where she is finding strength to move on from this momentary grief. If we notice the language of the author, these are not sudden movements taking place. There is creeping, and reaching, and waiting.

Paragraph 10 says: “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to posses her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will..”

“When she abandoned herself a little word escaped her slightly parted lips.”

Here we can see the process continuing, and the “thing” that was approaching had now arrived and we know what it is when she starts saying “free, free, free! Body and soul free!” These seem like shouts of joy but again if we pay attention to the author’s language we see that they were more like whispers. She said these words under her breath. From this I get that this freedom was somehow what she wanted but maybe she got it in a way that she didn’t, which is why she struggled with the feeling at first: “she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.” As the process progresses she embraces this bittersweet freedom. Her mindset has shifted. She’s sad but she is ready to move on. The feeling of freedom is now setting in, and she is becoming comfortable with it. The process is winding down towards the end of the story and we see that she feels optimistic about her life now.

In a moment her freedom is stripped when she sees that her husband has not died. In a moment directly after it, this complex freedom returns with her death. She does not die with her freedom, but she dies and gains it.

1 thought on “Freedom & “The Story of An Hour”

  1. It’s great that you notice the detail that although what Mrs. Mallard says seems like something to shout, she actually whispers. What do you think is the purpose of that detail? I’m not sure I understand your conclusion about it. It’s also interesting how you note that the feeling of freedom comes to her gradually–how is this related to her whispers?

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