“The Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin (1894) tells us the transition of a woman from shock to grief to joy and then again to shock within a span of an hour or so. But it should be mentioned in the initial stages that there is no change of character in its fundamentals throughout the story. This unchanging existence due to an unhappy marriage is the focal point of the character and main theme of the story.
The author narrates the change of emotions in a crisp construction pattern that is visual and descriptive yet short and sensitive. Mrs. Mallard’s unsatisfied married life is also projected as the subdued conclusion statement in the story. Her reaction to the news of her husband was natural but yet not natural as the transition from shock to grief was an extremely short one. The author narrates this phase in a very illuminative manner. “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.” (Chopin, 1)
After a while came the time to consolidate her initial outburst of agony and this was the phrase “when the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.” (Chopin, 1) This was the time she started formulating and evaluating her actual position in a situation that would be completely in the absence of her husband. She hardy savored her married life and felt little emotional bondage with her husband.
Thus it was her time to analyze her position and “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” (Chopin, 2)
This was her sense of freedom from a marriage that she had hated all her married life but never realized so vividly. In fact, it is possible that her ill health and poor cardiac conditions were all due to the fact that all her married life she had been through depression and anxiety that she never knew. Thus once the news of death came in it took some time for them to realize the essence of her liberty from an unwanted relationship which otherwise was irreversible during the late 1800s.
It can be easily identifiable that the fear of the violent man is a reason which makes most victims fails to seek out help in the event of domestic violence. With some partners being so violent, women tend to fear the repercussions that would result if the partner realized that she was looking for help. They, therefore, made sure that looking for help would improve the situation rather than make it worse. Having a good understanding of their partners, most women understand what they were capable of doing. This makes them try to protect themselves, or friends and family by advising them not to call for help because the partner could harm them.
Furthermore, women who live under the shadows of violent partners but are not ready to seek help from relevant organizations or their family and friends. This is triggered by several factors that would implicate negatively on them if their partners discovered that they are seeking help or the steps that would be taken to assist them. This means that all the organizations that are responsible for dealing with domestic violence must come up with strategies that would take these barriers into consideration. Failure to do this will mean that domestic violence will remain for ages. In the case of the story, violence, physical or mental, or simply the essence of the threat made the protagonist traumatized throughout her life. The death of her husband was a complex relief to her.
It should be noted that Psychological trauma is an alarming clinical as well as a societal problem. It is inclined to repeat itself from generation to generation for the reason that its victims defensively re-enact the evil that has been done to them by vicariously or blatantly repeating it with those they hold most dear, particularly significant. In this case, it was the husband. The suffering of the traumatized patient is blatant, manifesting itself in various feelings, from anger to depression, and in various psychological defenses, for instance, aggressive outbursts, verbal provocation, disavowal, and guilt feelings. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the most commonly discussed psychiatric syndromes in the popular press. The women’s stress in this story is such a case of traumatic life but suppressed to the society.
The characteristics of Mrs. Mallard never revealed the pain of marriage even to herself thus when the effortless sense of joy was realized it cannot be stated that she was becoming a different person altogether or there was a shift of character in the story. This is because the character that came out after receiving the death of Mr. Mallard was always there present in her mind but in a much-suppressed manner. The news only opened up the gate to let the emotions of joy flush out. Thus it cannot be stated that it changed Mrs. Mallard rather we can say that the news actually revealed the inner self of Mrs. Mallard to the readers. This was no transition of character but a construction process of hope that indicated that “What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being“. (Chopin, 2)
It may appear that Mr. Mallard kept her inner self a secret but in reality, it was the perception of the reader about a marriage in the society that was the main obstacle of understanding the approach of this character. As it is, as, in the 1890s, it is the common discernment of the society that marriage is regarded as successful if the violence or discontent is not visible to the society but this society fails to understand and feel the essence of mind and the desires are kept suppressed.
Thus it can be stated that if there are any transition or change of character in the story, after the development of incidents, are from the parameter or perspective of the society or the readers of the society. Mr. Mallard remained the same as she was at the beginning of the story only the perception of the readers changed along with the storyline making her a constant quintessence of free will or the aspiration of it throughout the narration.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. 1894.