The Story of an Hour
Freedom and Confinement Theme
At first, freedom seems like a terrible thing to Mrs. Mallard, who's restricted in lots of ways: through her marriage, by her bad heart, and even inside her home, which she doesn't leave during "The Story of an Hour." On the other hand, though, she has considerable freedoms as an upper-class, married lady. She can tell freedom's coming for her, and she dreads it. Once it arrives, though, it fills her with an overpowering joy. Yet, she experiences this mental and emotional freedom while being confined to a room. As soon as she leaves that room, the freedom she'd only just barely begun to understand is taken away from her.
Questions About Freedom and Confinement
- Do you think the narrator supports Mrs. Mallard's thought process and desire for freedom? Is the narrator biased against it, or too eager to support Mrs. Mallard in her decision?
- How "free" was Mrs. Mallard before she knew about the train accident?
- What kinds of freedoms do each of the characters in the story have? In what ways are they confined or limited?
- What should we make of the fact that Mrs. Mallard locks herself up – purposefully confines herself? Why is it only when she's confined to a room, but liberated from a marriage, that she discovers herself to be free?
- What do you think of Chopin's strategy of placing the entire story's action within a single house?
Chew on This
The moral of the story undermines the famous saying "the truth shall set you free"; Mrs. Mallard finds freedom in the false belief that her husband is dead, and dies when she faces the truth.
By dying at the end of the story, Mrs. Mallard fulfills her earlier fantasies of freeing herself from her humdrum, yet pleasant married life.