Sunday, March 27, 2011
The Story of An Hour- Gender Criticism
"The Story of An Hour" by Kate Chopin fits perfectly in the category of female stereotypes. The protagonist in the story is Louise, the wife of Brently Mallard who was supposedly killed in a train accident. When Loise first hears news that her husband was dead she reacts dramatically by sobbing instead of acting numb in a "storm of grief". She is pretending to act what was expected of women in the late 1800's: emotional, needy and dependent on a man to keep her afloat and together. She is actually crying tears of joy in reality that she had her epiphany of what freedom she newly possessed with this death. When she is alone in her room she continues to cry but it is more just from an automatic reaction because that is everything she is used to in her marriage, and less of a natural genuine reaction. She then has the fantasy of what she would feel like after the funeral of Brantly and her tears stop, and she gets happy thinking about her freedom outside of the metaphorical "window." This doesn't stop her from continuing to act out the woman she needs to fit the mold of to not blow her cover, though so she even goes to the extent of having to hold on to her sister, Josephine's arm down the stairs acting out the weak needy woman. Although she has a bad heart condition, it is mostly from her bad relationship with Brently who is actually keeping Louise from being free. She cries because she can finally be a free, independent woman and not have to answer to any man who doesn't treat her with the respect that a complicated mind such as herself possesses. The crisis is when Brently walks through the door at the end of the story, completely unaware of the fact that there even was an accident, much less that he was supposedly in the accident, and Louise dies on the spot due to a "heart attack of joy." Of course the doctors would announce her death as such because that is what was socially acceptable at the time. A woman would die in honor if she is dying over the joy in the resurrection of her husband. It would not, however be respectable for her to be unhappy finding him to be alive in that she would have to give up her newfound freedom. It is very interesting how Chopin is very suggestive of the idea in marriages being forced and fony in this story. At the time it was still very common for marriages to be arranged for reasons like money or status. Once a woman was paired with a man, it was then her duty to not only be there, subserviently but to also never speak poorly of her husband. Louise in this story only speaks positively about Brently when she says he was very "joyful and loving" when really he made her cry and feel trapped. This has been happening to women throughout history and still continues to happen today in many households. One would not even guess that a woman is going through complete misery and madness inside her heart and mind if she could just be a good actress like Louise. Acting can only get one so far, though. You might end up dead in your holding back of emotions and opinions for such a long time.