In every country, city or neighborhood there is a set of invisible rules created with unanimous consent from people. These rules are the norms in which an individual should act, its states who the individual should marry and even states what clothes are appropriate to wear. These invisible rules are always attack by lone individuals but are rarely erased from the invisible rule book. Society expectation is the name of these rules and there are the most powerful weapon society has in attacking the unnatural.
Society expectation work by oppressing the individual free will thus erasing the individual freedom in controlling their own life. Yet, free will is the one ability humankind need to survive and live a meaningful life. In “The Story of an Hour”, Kate Chopin reveals the importance of an individual free will against society standards. At the beginning of the story, the narrator presents Ms. Mallard as an idiotic and lifeless character to symbolize the absence of free will. She is described as “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression” with a dull stare indicating a “suspension of intelligent thought” (Chopin).
Her repressive face indicates the subduing of society because in 19th century America, a woman “was not expected to engage in self-assertion” thus she was forced to submit even in thought (Amil 216). A human mind, should be the one location where free will is limitless because the mind represents the individual with no restraint on reality. Society expectation in this case “mandated the complete dependence of wives on husbands” allowing her free will to diminish even in thought (Amil 216). Therefore, Ms.
Mallard husband controls her life and by extension society will control her, since it was society who forced the marriage. And even though the marriage was one with love it still subdues Ms. Mallard by “confining the wife’s freedom, stripping [louse] the chance of being herself (Sumer 192). Ms. Mallard love for Brently proves that even love is nothing compare to free will. Louse reaction to her dead husband near the end seems off, especially since “she had loved him” (Chopin). But the emotion of love and self-assurance are completely different, and in reason you can live without love but you can’t live without free will.
Before the dead of Brently, Louse was just a lifeless character with no purpose and a heart problem, therefore when she finally gains freedom from an “oppressive patriarchal marriage and womanhood ideology” she drinks the “very elixir of life” (Sumer 192) (Chopin). Brently love in general was not the direct reason for Louse oppressive life, but society interpretation of marriage. As Evans states “a loving relationship can be confining for one or both partner” and “even men can feel as confined” (Chopin and Evans 194). Therefore, just because there is love in a relationship it does not mean there is freedom.
The narrator never forces the reader to blame Brently, mainly because he is not the cause of Louse dilemma, he just represents the side effect of society oppression. Thus, as she “recognize this thing” coming from outside the window, love means nothing compare “to the strongest impulse of her being” (Chopin). The description of the window and the outside world represent how her new free will is fading out the social oppression. There are two parts being describe outside the window one is nature and the other is humanity or something produce by humans.
Nature is the vision or perception of [Louse] freedom” and it also represent the opposite of humanity (Amil 217). The “patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds” represent how louse has had a submissive life but her freedom is emerging from the clouds (Chopin). Thus, as her freedom emerges so those the “spring life” or the rebirth of Louse (Chopin). In contrast, the human description outside the window reflect society oppression since the status quo is a man-made creation. So, as freedom is emerging as nature, society oppression is fading just like the “distant song which one was singing” (Chopin).
And even though society expectations are fading like the song there is still the “peddler [who] was crying his wares” to represent society forcefully selling the hidden oppression of life (Chopin). The peddler is directly outside the window and not even the nature imagery can hide it, thus it is foreshadowing on Ms. Mallard future. In other words, “Louse life is momentarily dark” full of humanity demand “but new options are beginning to dawn” thus showing the sky (Chopin and Evans 193). By presenting Ms. Mallard potential future, the importance of free will is reinforce because without it there wouldn’t be any.
Before the accident, Ms. Mallard served society all her life, by being an “angel in the home who should know her place” (Sumer 192). Since her life has been shape by society, the idea of living on her own term seemed impossible thus when her husband died she “tried to beat it back with her will” (Chopin). However, since at that moment in life she had no choice, free will emerge by force and the known society pressure disappeared. Without society expectation to enforce Ms. Mallard, she can create her own path with “her own laws, and through conscious choice become her own creation with an autonomous self” (Wan 168).
By living her own life, Ms. Mallard grows strength and fulfillment by enforcing her free will on her future. And even thought the rest of society is alive like the “peddler”, Ms. Mallard overcomes the biggest obstacle of a 19th century women, her husband (Chopin). The revival of Mr. Mallard symbolizes the revival of society pressure. Throughout the story, the narrator describe how society controlled and limited Ms. Mallard life by using her husband as a weapon.
Yet, it should be noted that the same society pressure was created by people like Ms. Mallard, and her family. Therefore, the cause of Louse imprisonment was not directly her husband’s but the ignorance of people because it is people who see nothing wrong with “imposing a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin). Hence, Mr. Mallard revival does not mean that he personally will strip Louse of her freedom but serve as a reminder of society pressure because he is part of society. Brently like all of society is ignorant to the harm they cause people, and because of the oblivious behavior of Brently, he can’t be the villain, but is a victim like Louse.
Additionally, if Brently had died Louse would have not been freed from society, because there will always be more people imposing the invisible will onto her. So, when Louse sees him, she realizes that her husband, “as a proponent of patriarchal culture [ and of society in general], would never allow for a woman’s self-discovery” (Amil 219). By realizing that her husband is not the problem but society is; Louse understand that “it’s impossible for her to keep both her spirit and body free in the traditional society” (Wan 169). Ms.
Mallard death is her final act of free will which allows her to live a free life. When Louse understood society corrupt desire, she realized that society will take away the newly gain freedom. At the same time, she knows “that she could never reverse her progress and once again take up the confinement of her former life”, which leaves death as the only solution. Death is the escape where the living hold no power because at death all of society constrains and rules disappear. In the end, “Louse [free will] is the joy she refuses to surrender, that the patriarchy world would require her to do” (Amil 220).
Her last act of free will symbolizes that life is meaningless without it, because at the beginning we see Louse alive but with a face that “bespoke repression” (Chopin). Being alive does not equal living, and in a society, that commands the individual movement and only allows them to watch, there is no independence. Thus, just by observing life as a pawn of society whim is nowhere near as important or liberating as living with freedom. Freedom allowed Louse to “engage in heightened consciousness, to observe and connect with the world around one’s self” (Amil 220).
In one hour, Louse understood what free will is and understood that living without it equals to a meaningless life. Choosing death was her final act of free will, in which she chooses to fight the oppression of the society in which it destroys individual freedom. At death, she gains the “eternal spiritual freedom” and an end to the oppression she will face alive, thus by choosing death she continues to live (Wan169). Society standards will always dominate the individual free in the living but has no say to the death.
The ironic quote, “the joys that kill” explains to the characters inside of Louse world, that she dies of a “happiness too great for her weak heart to sustain” (Chopin) (Chopin and Evans 194). In Louse world, her husband will view her as the loving wife who lived and died for him, and to her sister she will be known as the traditional women that had died tragically over love. Society forced Louse last act of free will to become insignificant because no one will know of her internal struggle she faced constantly.
Her death does not mean freedom in the eyes of society, but the end of life because society views death as the end. In a sense society, finally silenced Ms. Mallard voice and made her into the puppet it can control. Ms. Mallard name will be used by society constantly to reinforced its standards and oppression. Yet, does society usage of Louse death matter to Louse? Louse is death, what happen after death is a mystery but what is known is that Louse will never have to face the constrained of society ever again.
The death body of Ms. Mallard is not the soul or spirit of Louse, and near the end of her death she died as a free individual. Society saw only Ms. Mallard as a wife but by dying she felled ‘it more important to be an individual than to be a woman” (Wan 168). Society can’t constrain her but it can constrain her legacy. Yet, a legacy is only seen by the living and not the dead, thus it won’t affect Louse at all. In other word, Society expectations will always dominate the living because it is created by the living individuals who suffer under it.
Free will can only survive momentarily in the world of the living, and the individual won’t be able to live without it. In “the story of an hour”, the character Louse Mallard represents the average individual struggling to obtain freedom in an artificial world. Society demands different actions on distinct groups of individuals depending on the time and place. 19th century America forced women to follow society standards by stripping them of their independence and self-assertion to live their life for their husbands.
Louse has always followed society expectation but when her husband died she tasted free will for an hour and in that hour learned the importance of it. Free will is what make an individual distinct from the rest of the group, and it is the reason on why people live. Free will is more important than any other emotion yet it is always attack by society. In the artificial world of Louse and the reader, free will can’t compete with society expectation because society will always be there in multiple forms. The only way to escape society is by dead, and choosing to live without it equal to a meaningless life.