Story of an Hour Kate Chopin
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Kate Chopin’s The Story of An Hour is an intriguing work that leaves the reader wondering whether Louis Mallard’s awakening was spiritual or physical. Many critics like to pick one side of the argument and stick to it, however the reader must realize that it is a combination of the two. In his essay Chopin’s The Story of an Hour, Daniel P. Deneau, a decorated literary critic, suggests some possible interpretations of the story. Deneau points out many different examples through out the story to show how Louis Mallard’s awakening is both spiritual and physical.
Deneau presents the question whether Louise is “a normal understandable, sympathetic woman or is she an egocentric, selfish monster.” Even though celebrating the death of one’s husband is evil and devilish, the way she does it makes her a sympathetic character. Deneau explains that there is a spiritual force that is responsible for Louise’s emotions. He also argues that “if immediately after learning of the death of her husband Louise had gone through a rapid logical process leading to a celebration of her total freedom, she might have seemed to be hard, calculating, and therefore unsympathetic.” Chopin makes Mrs. Mallard a sympathetic woman by making her awakening seem forced and uncontrollable.
Deneau calls attention to the fact that this awakening can be related to a rape. Mrs. Mallard is said to have tried to “beat it back with all her will.” This “sexual experience…at first seems…like a terrifying rape, but one that evolves into something sensually stimulating and relaxing, and, of course, spiritually illuminating.” Louis feels the physical change that occurs, “her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” This is all part of the physical change that takes place within Louise Mallard and it all is similar to what may go on during a sexual scene. Deneau also mentions that the word “possess” can mean, “to have sexual intercourse with (a women).” Kate Chopin was familiar with the double meaning of this word when she used it in Story of an Hour saying, “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her.” We know this because she used this meaning of the word in another one of her works entitled The Storm.
Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour “is about more than fear, force, and sex; it is also about anticipation, pleasure, and ultimately enlightenment.”
In conclusion, Deneau uses several exerts from Chopin’s text to explain Chopin’s portrayal of Louise Mallard as an innocent bystander who was consumed by a spirit which was not her own. He explains that Chopin is not writing about an remorseless widow, but of the spiritual and physical force that possesses, awakens, and eventually kills her.
Chopin, Kate. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Ed. Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.
Deneau, Daniel P. “Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour.’.” Explicator 61.4 (Summer 2003): 210-213. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Vol. 110. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Apr. 2010.