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Feminism from the perception of Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

Question

In “The Story of an Hour” Kate Chopin addresses many of the concerns that are central to feminism, including the ideas that a woman has a unique identify distinct from the identity of her husband.  This would include the woman’s right to identify and experience her own interests.  In this documented essay, research the woman’s movement at the turn of the century and the beginnings of feminism. Show how this movement influenced Chopin in the story’s  “The story of an hour” themes and main character.

****Research Paper: Requirements

Find at least four other sources (the text or poem itself is a primary source) related to your topic. So five sources total. You can use valid website as two of these sources. The other two sources must come from the electronic library databases.  You will need at least one source from a history site or article to get historical background information.

Based on your research, write an essay on one of the topics listed above. To do this, you will need to briefly SUMMARIZE your story or poem, ANALYZE its themes, and DISCUSS how the historical research you did relates to the story or poem’s meaning.

Your thesis should make a claim that answers the question asked and connects the story to its historical context and the body of your paper will substantiate that claim. The research you’ve done will be there to INFORM what you’re saying, but you will need to CITE any source you quote or paraphrase. Even if you paraphrase the ideas expressed in your source, you need to give the author credit for those ideas. It is your responsibility to document these sources correctly (see the MLA link in Library tutorial posted in Canvas). The proof of your research will ALSO be present in your essay’s sophistication and knowledge.

Again, your essay must have a thesis that relevantly connects the story to its historical context and to the essay topic.  The thesis will come as the last sentence in the first paragraph. The paper will substantiate that connection by explaining one or more of the story or poems elements (plot, characters, setting, theme, language) to your research. For example it must be analytical not a statement of the obvious.

Answer: Feminism from the perception of Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

The feminist movement began in the 20th century as a means of warring the despotic patriarchal world order that limited the female gender’s ability to reach its full potential and be an equal member of the society. Although it originated from the 18th century’s women rights movement, the 20th century fighters gave the movement a name (Cruea 1). The movement fought for status for women. It was the voice of women for equal opportunity, equal rights, voting rights and advocacy of other imperative issues that would position them as equal members of the society (not subordinate to the male gender). Literature was the most popular channel for the war. Women of the century authored fiction and non-fiction literary work infused with feminist themes to ensure the movement grew. Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour is no exception. It exemplifies the works of art that pushed for the feminist agenda. Influenced by the social time period of the 1900’s, Kate Chopin illuminates a new vision, one in which women are actually able to do what men can and have more opportunities to express themselves within society.   It begins in a synopsis of the story, proceeds to exploring themes and culminates in analyzing how the historical circumstances of the time influenced the theme choices.

SYNOPSIS:
Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

After Mallard Brently’s grisly railroad accident, Richard, Brently’s friend paces to Mrs. Mallard’s house, where, together with Josephine (Louise’s sister), they meticulously and softly break the news to Louise who has a weak heart. She reacts by instantly weeping her pain our then rushes to the bedroom for some solitary time. Calm, young, strong-faced but exhausted, Mrs. Mallard sits on the bedroom chair starring at the clouds and the earth’s beauty through the window seeking a revelation. While excited about the freedom that comes with her husband’s death, in fear Louise’ heart beats faster in terror. Louise predicts a life of freedom and starts planning for it. She acknowledges that she loved her husband, although this love is not comparable to the impending freedom where she can live by and for herself without the trammel of another person’s wishes and directions. Her joy is evident in the utterance, “Free! Body and soul free!”

Josephine is concerned and asks to join Louise to help her manage the grief, not knowing that Louise is over gladdened by the beckon of freedom and is immersed in the utopic imagination of the awaiting long life of happiness. Indeed, a day earlier, Louise had feared the possibility of living long on earth. In response to Josephine’s request, thus, Louise opens the door and holds her around the waist downstairs, to the waiting Richard.

It at this point that Brently Mallard shows up without any signs of an accident having not been anywhere close to the accident seen. Richard swiftly moves to block him from seeing the face of his dejected wife. Louise collapse and by the time medical attention arrives, she has succumbed to “heart disease” due to what is best describe as the “joy that kills”

THEMATIC ANALYSIS:
Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

Although an explicit exploration of feminist ideals may only be implied, a feminist approach to writing is illuminating in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, presenting the story as a personification of feminism. In this analysis feminist theory application is reviewed through Chopin’s themes, characterization and setting. Chopin presents masculinity/femininity in the characters and their deeds resulting in either the endorsement or destabilization of the stereotypes concept.

            Louise has a complete comprehension of the “right” standards of behavior for a woman, but her feelings, emotions and thoughts contradict the prescriptions. From the genesis of the narrative, Louise is referred to as Mrs. Mallard, and then pronoun “she” the rest majority of the references. The conspicuous presentation as a shadow (subordinate) of Brently, namelessness and anonymity, are a symbol of the lost identity and individuality by women to the patriarchy. To emphasize this loss, as one orchestrated by the patriarchy, when Mrs. Mallard is first called by her name, Louise, in paragraph 16, it is Josephine, a woman who does it. This impliedly extends the need for identity and individuality to Josephine. It is also imperative to note that the reference to her real name only occurs after she has asserted her being “free! Body and soul free!”  The choice of names Josephine (the female insubordination of Joseph) and Louise (female personification of Louis) further presents the paradox of dependence where even in the personal femininity, patriarchy rules supreme and the masculine agenda is undiminished.

            According to Jamil’s analysis of Chopin’s story, the narrator asserts that Louise is not smitten like the “many women” by the “paralyzed inability” to condone a mortifying sense of loss (Jamil 218). Instead, she is goaded from being passive by the overwhelming emotional flood (Berkove 155). “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment; in her sister’s arms…she went away to her room alone, she would have no one follow her” (Chopin par. 14). Chopin uses Louise’s action to expose the spontaneity of her feelings and emotions. At the point of shock, Louise accepts the support of Richard and Josephine, but as time proceeds, Louise adorns her individuality as a free woman shunning everyone’s company, a symbol of overcoming societal stereotypes.

            Chopin uses Mr. Mallard to symbolize patriarchic oppression against Louise. The report of Brently’s death beams a light of liberation, breakage of the bondage yoke of marriage and gives her the freedom to own her individuality and espouse the feminine superiority. Mallards return in good health is a compulsive push back to the prison cell of silenced opinions, suppressed inner feelings and emotions as well as the return to insignificance (Bressler 146). Indeed, when Mallard returns and gets the “view of his wife,” Louise’s position as a wife re-institutionalizes emphasizing domestication by patriarchy and she dies almost immediately. Louise’s immediate death points to how bad the liberation was needed and how the was prepared to do everything including life for the liberation; how after gaining the freedom, one would never wish to lose it.

HISTORICAL INFLUENCES ON AUTHORSHIP

Chopin’s The Story of an Hour is set in the late nineteenth century, published precisely in 1894, when women were subordinates of their husbands, working as shadows meant to be happy serving the home. At the time, men enjoyed the mandate to identify and assign roles to women, thus, perpetuating a conceptual jail that confined and silenced the female gender. At the time, the society perceived the women as “as emotional servants whose livelihood was to be dedicated to the welfare of home and family to preserve the social constructs and maintain stability” (Papke 10). Men confined these women within the dictatorship of domestic spheres that they set and wittily compelled the women to forsake self-definition and adopt the identity of the men they served.

According to Newton (882), the hankering to prosper without the domestic sphere was immediately curtailed for it was viewed as an extension that would harm the very women that seek it. Welter added that “if anyone, male or female, dared to tamper with the complex virtues which made up True Womanhood, he was damned immediately as the enemy of God, of civilization, and of the republic” (372). Indeed, in many places, women were not even allowed to discuss matters that affected the society nor vote. Chopin uses Loise and Mr. Mallard to address this bondage, robbery of voice and limitation of potential in a bid to create awareness for the need for things to change. Reviewing from the tragic end, Chopin stresses how urgent feminism is and how much women are yearning for it. 

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