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Mrs. Louise Mallard is the most well-known character in Kate Chopin's novel "The Story of an Hour." Mrs. Mallard is Mr. Brently Ballard's wife. Because all of the other characters' attentions are pulled to her, the tale centers around her and elevates her to the character position of protagonist. When the narrative opens with the news of Mr. Ballard's death, Richard and Josephine suppress their individual grief and work together to console her. The two characters ensure they take good care of her to avoid the shock of her husband’s demise that could send her to early grave. Similarly when the story draws to an end they put aside dwelling on their own emotions on the surprise of seeing Brently alive by prioritizing the care of Louise first (Shmoop Editorial Team n.p).
Character analysis of Mrs. Louise Mallard
From the onset of the story she is described as, ‘afflicted with a heart trouble’ (1). That shows that Louise is ill and in a state that makes her to behave like a lady and requires such a pampering treatment. She is also further said to have ‘two white slender hands’ (10) which portrays her as a woman that does not do hard labor. She is sympathetic since the descriptions within the one hour present her as one who is taken care of by all the people around her due to her tenderness (Wan 176). Kate Chopin also provides her physical descriptions that she is young and having a calm face that indicate repression and inner strength (8).
The narrator explains that Louise is beautiful with youthful appearance but the lines drawn on her face show that she is a woman that is disturbed by internal duress. The internal disturbance that bereaves her of peace shows that she holding something within that is yet to explode. Ironically with the care that she is given by the people around that portray her as weak, the author says that she has hidden inner strength.
The marriage of the Mallards is another ironical concept sine the wife shifts in two contradicting positions. She says that Mr. Mallard has usually been good to her and it shows that she feels loved. Later when the husband ‘dies’, she is so much relieved and is excited by the joy of freedom and independence that she will have. The author describes that ‘she had loved him’ and ‘often….not’ (15). The love she has for her fluctuates and is reduced to be a matter of ‘sometimes’. The descriptions show that there could be something bad that the husband was doing for her that if she remembered she would have her love fluctuate. One cannot love another person partly unless there is an issue of contention (Shmoop Editorial Team). The marriage seems to be compost of two committed partners who are glued together by the cord of love that is strong to allow them override the differences they have.
Mrs. Mallard is not a bad wife or woman following the narrations. She is committed to the marriage but the problem she has is her failure to be frank with the husband to discuss with her the issues that she has within her. The husband is not sensitive to the needs of the wife that has led to build up of stress and all the psychological and emotional problems that Mrs. Mallard encounters.
Mrs. Mallard criticizes her husband as having ‘powerful will’ on her. The phrase she has used to describe how she dislikes the daily influences and authority that the husband is exerting on her. The phrase ‘blind persistence’ she uses to show her displeasure in the husband’s will that is exerted on her consistently without taking into consideration her needs as his wife. This makes her to have a longing desire to be a ‘free soul and body’ (11, 16) that is free from the influences of the husband. At the news of her husband’s death, she has overwhelming thoughts on how she would be free and independent from probably the prison of his husband’s persistent dictatorial will (Emmert 74-85).
The excitement is double edged since it is both good for her by transforming her to a new person with the self-assertiveness or the inner strength hidden that the narrator initially said. At the same time it is a highway that ironically leads her to her early death before the husband. She becomes so enthusiastic of his imaginary future that is free without the husband. Sadly the feeling of freedom and liberation becomes short-lived and she dies following the touching prayer that ‘life might be long’ (19) she says.
Mrs. Mallard is a great character in the story that through her, the narrator passes across important lessons in marriage life and character. She has been used to show the importance of a husband being sensitive to the needs of the wife and not exerting too much authority on the wife without listening to her. Such kind of powerful influence may lead to the wife viewing the marriage as being a prison that she should break from and be independent and free. It may also lead to conditions of psychological torture and emotional instability that worsens human health and may lead to death.
Emmert, Scott D. "Naturalism and the Short Story Form: Kate Chopin's" The Story of an Hour." Scribbling Women and the Short Story Form: Approaches by American and British Women Writers (2008): 74-85.
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The Story of an Hour." Shmoop.com . Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 17 Sep. 2014.
Wan, Xuemei. "Kate Chopin’s View on Death and Freedom in The Story of an Hour." English Language Teaching 2.4 (2009): P167.
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