Jessica Danielle Powell's English 170W Blog
The Long Development of a Short Story.
The Rights of Marriage
Posted on November 21st, 2011 at 4:50 am by Jessica Danielle Powell and

So far my research has been okay. I’m not thrilled about it because it seems like on Academic search complete I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for. I warn whoever is reading this that I am about to “Constructively” rant about my story until I come to an open ended question to answer with research [insert chuckle here]


The Story of an Hour is one of the most powerful short stories I’ve ever read. Its a story filled with the mystery behind marriage and its constant dance with opression. One thing that I find so amazing about this story is how Mrs. Mallard isolates herself from everyone when she finds out about her husbands death. The rainbow of emotions that Mrs. Mallard experiences is what really facinates me. MY question is why, why and how does Mrs. Mallard go through the spectrum of emotions she does that lead to her unexpected but foreshaowed death.


The story explains that Mrs. Mallard died of a heart condition, of joy that kills. And in the beginning the narrator tells us that Mrs. MAllard was already afflicted with heart trouble so great care was taken to break the news of her husbands death to her. Did anyone stop to think that the reason why Mrs. Mallard was afflicted by heart trouble was because of how her husband killed her freedom in their relationship? …Why was freedom for women in a marital relationship so hard to find? Mrs. Mallard tasted freedom that she should have already been familiar with for the first time and within an hour it was given to her through death and taken away by a life that caused her to die. She didn’t just die physically but all of her hopes and her dreams died too. Imagine you taste freedom for an hour and then its taken away from you. Mrs. Mallards heart literally broke in two.

Marriage is the unification of two people into one. This unifciation results in one body that is bigger, stronger, and able to do more than two seperate bodies. Through better or for worse, richer or for poorer, in health or in sickness…Mr. Mallards wife was sick, pregnant with hopes and dreams that he claimed weren’t his.


“She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him–sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

“Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.”

The death of her husband shed light on her life reminding her that you can live for youself, that you do not have to be subject to the will of another human being and that her will was important too. Earlier in the story it is said that she attempted to fight back the “thing” that was coming toward her from out of the open window…she lost her will to fight “freedom” and gained her will to have “freedom” and then lost her will to live in freedom because of the existence of her alledgedly dead husband.


Mrs. Mallard knew that men should not be able to impose their unbending will on another woman, and that action seemed no less than a crime but society didn’t see it that way, but in that moment she saw everything !

So my question is: What rights did men and women have in society and consequently in a marital relationship in the Late 19th Century? [Why were women subjected to the will of a man?] And why or why not? And how does this support the ultimate and untimely death of a young Mrs. Mallard?

I’m also curious to how Mrs. Mallard experience with freedom relates to slavery…but that’s another topic for another time 🙂 thanks for reading please leave your comments and such!!!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments so far:

Link Here | November 21, 2011,

I think this is a great question–part of what makes the story you picked so interesting is that there a number of approaches you could take. Is it a philosophical story about the true meaning of love? Is it a historical look at women’s rights in the time period? Is it a metaphor for the American experience of slavery?
I think it’s right to pick one of those as your central question. Also–this will lead you to historical context that will help explain the story, which you might not have been able to do if you only looked at it like a New Critic.

  Kevin L. Ferguson |

TrackBack URI