Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour": A Feminist Reading
There are many forms of oppression in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin. Not only does
Louise Mallard suffer in her medical and marital conditions, but she also poses a threat to
herself, as her sister Josephine warns. This danger is particularly noticeable, since all of the
action in the story revolves around Louise Mallard's preservation. Everything is orchestrated to
save her from any sudden and/or extreme distress. In the end, the equilibrium of her situation is
what survives: Brently Mallard's return signals the return of her oppressive condition and
ensures that Louise Mallard will experience no more than a momentary change in her situation.
It is this unchanging prospect--the preservation of her oppressive condition--that proves Louise
Mallard, or rather her circumstances, fatal to herself.
Culminating in the doctors' diagnosis, Louise Mallard is the subject of and subject to the
masculine discourse of the story.
This masculine discourse, which finally pronounces her dead,
is fixed at the beginning of the story. She is introduced as "Mrs. Mallard" and referred to as
"she" for most of the narrative. Only when Louise has become "free! Body and soul free!" is she
addressed directly in the text and by her own name. But this denomination, as well as the change
it embodies, is short-lived. Louise's status as "wife" is reestablished at once in the story's
language and in Louise's life when Brently comes in "view of his wife."
Louise's medical condition is the narrative construct of a masculine world as well: The
male-dominated medical profession identifies, yet is impotent in treating, her heart trouble. It is
her perceived frailty that prompts Richards's chivalric intercession. Even the narrator observes
that Louise sobs "as a child who has cried itself...