Mrs. Mallard's husband could have thought he was doing her a great kind kindness by "bending" her will to his. This quotation demonstrates the fact that even if Brent Mallard was on his best behavior, he still had a negative, oppressive effect upon his wife. With little legal recourse, Chopin is alluding to the fact that for many women, death -- of either the husband or the repressed woman -- is the only way out of such a situation.
Unfortunately for Mrs. Mallard, her weak heart was unable to sustain the shock of seeing her husband alive, after she had finally acclimated herself to the notion that she had finally been freed from his oppressive presence and will. She was strong enough to live with her husband's death, yet was not strong enough to live through the surprise of his continued life at the resumption of her former, oppressed state. The irony of her strength that failed her is pointed out in the closing words of "The Story of an Hour," in which Chopin writes "When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease -- of the joy that kills" (Chopin 1896). The irony of this statement and of this situation, of course, is that joy is supposed to be one of the best aspects of life, and is certainly not supposed to kill. However, this quotation actually alludes to the fact that the doctors believe that Mrs. Mallard was so overjoyed at the presence of her husband, alive and whole, that it was too much to take and her heart gave out. The true irony of this sentence, in fact, is that Mrs. Mallard's reaction to the presence of her husband was the exact opposite. She was more than likely so horrified and distraught at the possibility of resuming her previously oppressed life (one that "only yesterday she had thought with a shudder" that it might be long) (Chopin 1896) that, after just being exposed to a few fantastic moments of freedom, her heart and should could not take such a dramatic reversal...
The fact that she had shuddered at the possibility of a long life with her husband alludes to the fact that Mrs. Mallard very well could have been better off dead than remaining imprisoned to his will, particularly.
In conclusion, when one considers that during the time this story was written there was little legal recourse for Mrs. Mallard, and that despite the very best of her husband's intentions he still subjugated her to his will, and that with a weak heart Mrs. Mallard could not stand multiple shocks, her solution to this problem, (although it was not intentional), death, was strongly suggested by Chopin of being the only way out of such a situation. Mrs. Mallard was nearly freed by her husband's death; she was definitely liberated from him with her own. However, this problem of women being subjugated to the will of their husband's is certainly one that continues to this day, and death is not the only viable solution for the vast majority of women who find themselves in such a situation. The more liberal divorce laws that Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton rallied for have been realized today. Moreover, there is an abundant of opportunities for women to find gainful employment opportunities on their own in contemporary society that were not available at the time of the writing of the Story of an Hour; they even have legal recourse for any wage discrimination (Goldberg 2007, 4-5). For modern women faced with oppression due to a man's will, divorce and their own career is the definite solution. For Mrs. Mallard, who had neither of these options available, the only solution was death.
Chopin, K. (1896). The Story of an Hour. Retrieved from http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/
Goldberg, S.B. (2007). "Women's Employment Rights." American Bar Association. Retrieved from http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/perspectives_magazine/women_perspectives_WomensEmploymentRtsSummer07.authcheckdam.pdf
Stanton, E.C. (1848). "Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions." Report of the Woman's Rights Convention. Retrieved from http://ecssba.rutgers.edu/docs/seneca.html
Stanton, E.C., Anthony, S.B. (1992). The Elizabeth Cady Stanton -- Susan B. Anthony reader: correspondence, writings, speeches. Lebanon: Northeastern University Press.
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