Friday, July 13, 2012

Free Will and "The Story of An Hour"

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Free Will and AThe Story of an Hour@

What is freedom?

Freedom is an independent person=s greatest gift freedom to dream, to assert oneself, to drink the Aelixir of life@ Kate Chopin reveals in AThe Story of an Hour@ how relationships and marriage in specific can suffocate one=s freedom and ability to live life with the liberating impulse of their own being. Mrs. Mallard=s free will is stifled by her dull marriage to Brently Mallard. Mrs. Mallard suffers not only from a physical heart ailment , but also from a broken heart as a result of an imprisoned free spirit. By depicting Mrs. Mallard as a broken, weak and imprisoned women, Chopin suggests that marriage can chain down the Astrongest impulse@of an independent women her free will.

Chopin characterizes Mrs. Mallard as a passive (broken)women with a heart so weak that it could stop beating at the slightest shock. (The first indication that Mrs. Mallard is broken and weak occurs in how Chopin sets the mood of a nursing home. ) AKnowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband=s death.@ Her sister Josephine and her husband=s friend Richards view Mrs. Mallard as weak and broken down and they worry that all the news at once might be too much for her to handle. AIt was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences, veiled hints that revealed in half concealing.@ Josephine is tantalizing with her hints because she believes Mrs. Mallard is too weak and feeble and that the initial shock may be too much for her. Richards Ahad only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.@ Richards cares for Mrs. Mallard greatly and he feels that he has to be careful and tender in the way he bears the sad message. He=s afraid that if a more careless friend lets Mrs. Mallard know, she may not be able to handle the sad news. However, Mrs. Mallard does not respond to the news of her husband=s death like most typical women would Ashe 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 is suggesting that Mrs. Mallard did not love her husband as much as people would expect. In fact , her sudden wild abandonment points more to a buoyant release from a heavy weight than an immobilizing shock of grief . Mrs. Mallard did not react in a traditional way because her love was not completely real Ashe had loved him-sometimes. Often she had not.@ In short, Mrs. Mallard=s actions and reactions following the news of her husband=s death imply that her spirit and will to live have been imprisoned behind the bars of her marriage. Her will has been bent Aby the powerful will of another@ , and now the news of his death has set her heart free.

(The second indication that Mrs. Mallard=s will is chained down occurs in how )Chopin uses the imagery of springtime to symbolize new life for Mrs. Mallard after she has heard the news of her husband=s death. The suggestion is that Mrs. Mallard was not free before her husband=s death, and now as she looks out the Aopen square@ before her, she sees the Atops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life.@ Symbolically, this Anew spring life@ represents the new and free life that Mrs. Mallard begins to birth out of her Avacant...fear A of the unknown. Her senses begin to awaken and her Ahaunted@ physical exhaustion begins to Aquiver@ with new sights and sounds. She surrenders to her heart=s A sound of a distant song@ and she begins to drink in Aa delicious breath of rain@. Furthermore, Mrs. Mallard sees Apatches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds.@ Her will to be free is beginning to appear like the heavenly blue patches of sky , uncovered from the clouds of her life. (Also, the image of blue sky appearing through the clouds implies that Mrs. Mallard=s own will used to be covered up like the clouds that cover up the blue sky. )

(The third indication that Mrs. Mallard=s free will has been chained down by marriage comes from the diction the Chopin employs in describing Mrs. Mallard after the news of her husband=s death.) Chopin highlights Mrs. Mallard=s new gift of freedom by sequencing words such as Aopen@ , Aabandoned@ and Aescaped@. First, she uses the word Aopen@ in describing the window. It is important to note that this diction is applied immediately following the news of Brently Mallard=s death. It can be inferred that Mrs. Mallard=s will was always closed and suffocated inside of her as a result of her obligations in marriage to Mr. Mallard. After the news of the death, Mrs. Mallard=s life begins to change. Everything she sees and experiences is open and full of life like the Acountless sparrows (that) were twittering in the eaves.@ AOpen@ symbolizes that Mrs. Mallard is beginning to open up her heart to this new Aelixir@ of life she is experiencing. In addition, Chopin uses the word Aabandoned@ to imply that Mrs. Mallard is abandoning all the physical boundaries that have been pressing in on her. In the ephiphany of an hour, Mrs. Mallard is abandoning herself to her imagination, and she begins to dream of what it is like to be free and full of life AWhen she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath Free, free, free!=@ Lastly, Chopin uses Aescaped@ to suggest that Mrs. Mallard is escaping from the physical boundaries of her marriage and from her weakened body Ashe saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.@ The use of this specific diction takes the reader into the imagination of Mrs. Mallard during her hour of freedom as she realizes that Athere would be no one to live for during those coming years@ but herself and that Athere would be no powerful will bending her in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature.@

AStory of an Hour@ (demonstrates how a free will can be smothered by marriage and it) offers ironic twists regarding freedom and marriage. Mrs. Mallard=s freedom and joy in her new free will lasts only an hour. As she walks downstairs Alike a goddess of victory@ the physical door opens and her physical husband walks in. Her heart cannot take the shock of her old physical reality because she had been imagining her new spiritual freedom for an hour. It is ironic that when faced again with her physical reality, she has to die to truly experience the freedom she had been imagining for an hour. (Chopin is implying that 1th century marriages can chain down an independent women=s freedom and ambition so drastically that death is the only way to discover true freedom. ) Mrs. Mallard=s brief ephipnay lit is poignantly echoed by the Romantic poet William Blake To see the world in a grain of sand/and Heaven in a wild flower/To hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in one hour.

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