Here the protagonist of "The Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard, has come to the realization that the death of her husband is not only a tragic occurrence, but also a beneficial cutting of her previously binding marital ties. The crisis of her grief has given her new insight on her life, and Mrs. Mallard understands that her marriage has (at least by nature of its being a human relationship) limited her independence and freedom. Like many of Chopin's protagonists, the issue of female autonomy and desire comes to the forefront in this story, and the overwhelming sensation of exultation overcoming Louise Mallard suggests that her life under the patriarchy of contemporary society has stifled her, although she was not previously aware of the fact. The idea that both her body and soul are free indicates that marriage is both a legal, corporal binding and an emotional one.
When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills.
The last sentence in "The Story of an Hour" points to the irony of Louise Mallard's death. She has died not from grief but from the sudden shock of having her joy of emancipation abruptly disappear upon the entrance of her husband Brently, who has not died in a train accident after all. The doctors' assessment of the reason for her death is thus unintentionally correct, although their diagnosis is intended to indicate that Louise dies from her happiness at Brently's safe return. In addition, although Mrs. Mallard's heart condition is mentioned initially at the beginning of the story, the intervening paragraphs suggest that when under the influence of her apparent independence, Louise Mallard is capable of feeling healthy. In the end, Louise Mallard dies from the shocking gap between her perceived situation and reality, which perhaps mirrors the discrepancy between her mental and physical health.
Then shutting her eyes, she ran suddenly down the shallow bank of the bayou, and never stopped till she had climbed the opposite shore.
In this sentence, La Folle forces herself to break the mental and physical boundary that has previously limited both her knowledge and her freedom. At the beginning of "Beyond the Bayou," Chopin describes the bayou as a crescent that curves around La Folle's land and separates her from the remainder of the plantation and the outside world. The fact that La Folle decides to cross the bayou is indicative of her love for Chéri, but she nevertheless closes her eyes at the boundary point so that she never sees the moment of transition from confinement to freedom. The crisis of this moment leads to the climax of the story and her run to P'tit Maître, and the absence of disaster in her crossing breaks La Folle of her mental block.
While the outward pressure of a young and joyous existence had forced her footsteps into the light, her soul had stayed in the shadow of the ruin.
By the end of the story, Ma'ame Pélagie has given up her dreams of restoring the old Valmêt mansion to its original glory in favor of the livelihood of La Petite and in particular of Pélagie's younger sister Pauline. This sentence clearly displays the tension between the needs of the young and the needs of those, such as Pélagie, who still live in the past and belong to an era that no longer exists, the antebellum period of the South. Chopin's phrasing contrasts the light of Pélagie's new surroundings in the new house at Côte Joyeuse with the shadow and the memory of the ruin that possesses her mind and soul. The hint of youth is also juxtaposed with the previous mention of Pélagie's obvious physical aging since her farewell to the past.
He thought Almighty God had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him; and felt, somehow, that he was paying Him back in kind when he stabbed thus into his wife's soul. Moreover he no longer loved her, because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name.
The cruelty that Armand Aubigny ascribes to God is an ironic reflection of his own behavior toward Désirée. Armand regards his repudiation of his wife as a just and fitting protestation of the cosmic unfairness of events, although Chopin's narration eventually paints Armand through his treatment of his slaves and his wife as a cold, unjust man. At the end of the story, his assumption that he is setting the unfairness of God to rights is reversed entirely when he discovers that he has blamed Désirée for the mixed blood of which he himself is guilty, but his self-righteousness is directly responsible for Désirée's suicide. In addition, the suggestion that his love is dependent on her assumed race indicates that his love is not as strong as previously suggested. It is ironic that he promises Désirée that her lack of a family will not matter to him, given his reversal after his discovery that his child is biracial. Furthermore, it is also ironic that he has lived his life as a wealthy plantation owner precisely because his father loved his mother enough to protect him from the knowledge of his descent.
"It is a lie; it is not true, I am white! Look at my hair, it is brown; and my eyes are gray, Armand, you know they are gray. And my skin is fair," seizing his wrist. "Look at my hand; whiter than yours, Armand," she laughed hysterically.
In this passage, Désirée is pleading with her husband Armand to counter his claim that she has somehow tainted his name through her unknown ancestry. Her observation that Armand's skin is darker than hers acts also as a foreshadowing of the eventual revelation that Armand is the biracial parent rather than Désirée. Furthermore, throughout the story, Désirée is portrayed in white clothing and white surroundings, which provides further hints that she is indeed Caucasian in ancestry, despite her mysterious origins. Her hysterical response to Armand's cold response also hints at the fervor of her love and at the potential for the disaster that results when she loses his love and he rebuffs her. The laughing is not an expression of happiness but rather of desperation and disbelief, as well as of a certain instability of emotion from her discovery--which drives her to suicide.
She wanted to draw close to him and whisper against his cheek--she did not care what--as she might have done if she had not been a respectable woman.
On the night before Mrs. Baroda decides to leave the plantation for the city, she spends some time with the guest Gouvernail, and she feels the physical longing that is the culmination of her discomfort since Gouvernail's arrival. Here, Kate Chopin shows the interplay between female desire and the restraints of marriage and of society, and Mrs. Baroda initially chooses the latter, as shown by the phrase "a respectable woman," from which the short story takes its name. At this point in the plot, she experiences a powerful attraction to Gouvernail that sends her happily married mind into a state of confusion and eventually causes her to reject the restrictions of marriage. Accordingly, by the end of the narrative, Mrs. Baroda appears to change her mind about the importance of her respectability.
Well, she had Brantain and his million left. A person can't have everything in this world; and it was a little unreasonable of her to expect it.
Nathalie's wry interpretation of her situation at the end of "The Kiss" suggests that the short story is essentially about the relative importance of the two forces that motivate marriage. Throughout "The Kiss," Nathalie tries to find fulfillment for both her financial and her sexual needs, and although she obtains the former in the form of the uninteresting but rich Brantain, she ultimately loses the latter when Harvy decides to end their relationship. Nathalie's conclusion indicates her resignation at Harvy's defection while indicating that, for Nathalie, "Brantain and his millions" and all the comforts and power that they bring will be sufficient. Unlike "A Respectable Woman," "The Kiss" is not so much the story of a woman who is grappling with desire as one about a woman who is already aware of the stakes and who moves to act. She does not totally win, but neither does she lose.
There were many others who were there solely for the play and acting. It is safe to say there was no one present who bore quite the attitude which Mrs. Sommers did to her surroundings. She gathered in the whole--stage and players and people in one wide impression, and absorbed it and enjoyed it.
As this excerpt suggests, when Mrs. Sommers decides to attend a play in "A Pair of Silk Stockings," she does not attend for the same reasons as those around her. Whereas the other theatergoers presumably are accustomed to the presence of money and think nothing of going to a play to enjoy themselves for an evening, Mrs. Sommers is not enjoying the acting so much as the experience of wealth, which for her is a temporary effect borrowed from her unexpected acquisition of fifteen dollars. Consequently, the play acts for Mrs. Sommers as a return to her more affluent past, and the entire incident that begins with her purchase of silk stockings is tinted with melancholy because both the reader and Mrs. Sommers know that the effect cannot last. However, at this moment, Mrs. Sommers chooses to ignore this knowledge and immerses herself in the experience of the theater.
"Do you not think that on a day like this, miracles might happen? When the whole earth is vibrant with life, does it not seem to you, Octavie, that heaven might for once relent and give us back our dead?"
Judge Pillier, the father of Edmond, says these words to Octavie as they ride back toward the Pilliers' house, as if he has had a premonition of Edmond's miraculous arrival from the war after his presumed death. He cites the vibrancy of life in the latter half of "The Locket," which takes place on a beautiful spring day that represents life and rebirth after a seemingly dead winter. The coming of spring comes to be an analogy for Edmond's return, and Judge Pillier's fervent supplication seems almost supernatural or divine in its strength of belief. When he speaks, the balance of life and death within Octavie's prematurely aged heart shifts decisively in favor of life, and Edmond's appearance seems to be a natural outcropping of Judge Pillier's words.
Kate Chopin’s Short Stories Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Kate Chopin’s Short Stories is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Monsieur had found her asleep at the gateway of Valmondé, and when Désirée awoke, she could do little but cry for “Dada.” People believe that a passing band of Texans had abandoned her, but Madame Valmondé believes only that Providence sent her...