ISC English –The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
About the author .. Kate Chopin(1850-1904) is remembered as much as for her gripping short stories, as for her pioneering role in American feminist movement. She believed in the institution of marriage as any normal woman, but her inner self told her relentlessly that wives must have the liberty to profess their views with no hindrance, and do things they liked without seeking the permission of their husbands. Born in St. Luis, Missouri, she had a French mother and an Irish father. She was widowed prematurely, but the disaster proved to be blessing as it enabled her to plunge into writing with all her time and energy.
In her novel ‘The Awakening’, she gives enough indication about her strong belief in women’s emancipation and the idea f equality of the sexes. ‘The Story of an Hour’, she has portrayed the feelings of a woman who receives the news of her husband’s death with equanimity and subdued glee because as a widow she could live own life. The dream is shattered moments later when the ‘dead’ husband appears alive in person
The story …
Mrs. Mallard had just lost her husband in a train accident. Being widowed at a relatively young age is a shattering tragedy for a woman. Besides this, she had a cardiac history, so everyone took extraordinary care to soften the blow before breaking the news to her. It fell on Josephine to communicate the news to her elder sister. Josephine spoke in tits and bits, in indirect language, and in a way, so that the news didn’t strike Mrs. Millard too hard.
Their family friend Richards had brought the news of the train accident that had proved fatal for Mr. Millard. In the list of passengers list killed in the accident, Mr. Millard’s name surely was there. Richards had cross-checked it through a second telegram, before coming to convey the news to the bereaved wife.
Mrs. Millard’s reaction to the news was a bit unusual. She didn’t become benumbed and still, as most women react on first hearing the news of the death of their husbands. Instead, she cried loudly and wildly in Josephine’s hands. After a while, the tumult and the frenzy began to calm somewhat. Mrs. Millard rushed into her room, bolted it from inside, and locked herself. Everyone though, most likely she wanted to be left alone in that hour of grief.
Inside the room, there was a comfortable cane chair kept facing a large window. One could see trees with lush foliage. Spring was setting on. It had rained for a while. A hawker carried his ware a little distance away. Sparrows had been twittering in the eaves exuberantly. Cloud hovered in the sky. A lone singer was singing somewhere afar.
In the comfortable cane chair, Mrs. Millard seated herself as if unable to take the burden of the grief. A torrent of thoughts seemed to pass through her mind. She was sad, no doubt, but she was experiencing something different. She looked vacantly at the distant sky, gazing into the clouds. Perhaps, she was trying to imagine her life as a widow. She reminisced about her married life. It was both sour and sweet. Her husband loved her, no doubt, but disagreements often marred their marital bliss. The loss was tragic, but she must come to turns with it sooner r later. She must do the rebuilding task on her own terms, not pushed or influenced by anyone else.
She felt that she was ‘free’ at last. The thought was exciting. She saw an opportunity here –to do things she liked without being fettered by anything or anyone else’s overpowering influence. She was beginning to feel happy at the prospect of living an un-shackled life. After some serious introspection, she convinced herself that the deliverance from married life was a welcome opening indeed. She looked forward to a joyous life in the coming years.
Josephine, overcome with trepidation, was frantically trying to come in and see her bereaved sister. From outside the locked door, she screamed at her elder sister to open the door and let her in. Mrs. Millard didn’t like to be disturbed from her reverie. Optimism had returned. She looked forward expectantly to the months ahead. She seemed to have triumphed over her misfortune.
Finally, she opened the door to let Josephine in. She exuded rare self-confidence and hope. She clung to her sister and both of them went downstairs. Richard was waiting there.
Something utterly unbelievable happened. Brently Millard came in opening the front door by his key. As usual, he was carrying his umbrella and grip-sack. He looked somewhat tired. He was blissfully unaware of the accident as he happened to be in a different location when the mishap happened.
Mr. Millard had a quizzical look in his eyes. Josephine recoiled in horror on seeing him, standing before her in person. The shock was perhaps too much for Mrs. Millard. Her reverie had been smashed by hard reality.
Mrs. Millard couldn’t possibly bear it. She breathed her last.