Kate Chopin’s Short Stories study guide contains a biography of Kate Chopin, literature essays, a complete e-text, story of an hour freedom essay questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Mallards’ house, where he and Mrs. Mallard sits motionless in her armchair by the window and looks at all the beauty of the outside world, occasionally sobbing.
She is young, with a calm and strong face, but she stares dully into the sky while she waits nervously for a revelation. Finally, she realizes despite her initial opposition that she is now free. Terror leaves her eyes while her pulse beats faster. Mallard knows that she will mourn her loving husband’s death, but she also predicts many years of freedom, which she welcomes. She begins planning her future, in which she will live without the burden of other people.
She loved her husband, more or less, but love is nothing to her when compared to independence, she decides, as she murmurs, “Free! Mallard to let her enter because she is afraid that the grieving widow will make herself ill, but Mrs. Mallard is actually imagining the happiness of the years ahead. In fact, only the day before she had feared living a long life. Triumphantly, she answers the door and goes downstairs with her arm around Josephine’s waist, where Richards awaits. At this moment, Brently Mallard comes in the front door, having been nowhere near the train disaster. Richards moves in front of him to hide him from seeing his wife when she cries out.
By the time the doctors arrive, she has died from “heart disease,” purportedly from “the joy that kills. Chopin tackles complex issues involved in the interplay of female independence, love, and marriage through her brief but effective characterization of the supposedly widowed Louise Mallard in her last hour of life. After discovering that her husband has died in a train accident, Mrs. Mallard faces conflicting emotions of grief at her husband’s death and exultation at the prospects for freedom in the remainder of her life. The latter emotion eventually takes precedence in her thoughts. As with many successful short stories, however, the story does not end peacefully at this point but instead creates a climactic twist. The reversal–the revelation that her husband did not die after all– shatters Louise’s vision of her new life and ironically creates a tragic ending out of what initially appeared to be a fortuitous turn of events.
As a result, it is Mr. Mallard who is free of Mrs. Mallard, although we do not learn whether the same interplay of conflicting emotions occurs for him. Mallard as a sympathetic character with strength and insight.