Mrs. Mallard, in Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour", lives through many revelations before ultimately leading to her demise. Mrs. Mallards' acceptance of her husband's passing brings rise to emotions that can only be described as a "sexual" experience as this "[... ] thing [...
] possess[es] her" (Chopin 552) and eventually results in a new outlook on the situation. In the final seconds of her life, it was not so much a joyful shock that killed her as it was the realization of everything that she had just thought of in the past hour being stolen from her. Locked in her room, mourning over her husband's death, Mrs. Mallard goes through a transition, from grieving for her husband to liberating herself from his oppression: "Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously.
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" (Chopin 552). Another meaning for the word "possess" is to have sexual intercourse, as a man would possess a woman. Kate Chopin knew of this alternate meaning because of her use of the word in "The Storm": "And when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life's mystery" (Chopin 130). One could easily replace "possessed" with "making love to." Not only does Chopin make an allusion to coitus, she also indicates Mrs.
Mallard had no control of the situation by making a reference to a rape experience. She "was striving to beat it back [, ]" (Chopin 552) as a woman would attempt to do, if she were being raped. Yet, what she was struggling with was not something physical; she had to fight back "with her will-as [... ] her [... ] hands would have been" (Chopin 552) should it have been something corporeal.
Chopin continues with more references to coitus as Mrs. Mallard "[... ] abandons herself [, ]" and does not fear this "thing" anymore; her "[... ] slightly parted lips [, ]" and .".. keen and bright... ." eyes invite this act of sexual temperament.
By the end of this seemingly sexual experience, Mrs. Mallard's "[... ]pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warm[s] and relax[s] every inch of her body" are similar to that of post-coitus. Her "[...
] body and soul [was] free [at last]!" (Chopin 553). When Mrs. Mallard's rejuvenating experience comes to a close, she finally "[... ] opens the door to her sister's importunities [. ]" They began to walk downstairs to join the others. "There was a feverish triumph in [Mrs.
Mallard's] eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory" (Chopin 553). Just then, the front door opens and in walks the thought-to-be-deceased Mr. Mallard. The sight of her husband brought back feelings of suppression and containment. Everything she had just thought of in the past hour, all her freedom, and all those .".. sorts of days that would be her own" (Chopin 553) were about to be stolen from her.
Mrs. Mallard had just had a vision of her newfound sovereignty, and now, with Mr. Mallard alive and well, she becomes limited once again. She is sentenced for the second time to acquiescing to her husband.
She then became trapped by his oppression, and her last escape was death. Although she loved her husband "-sometimes [... ] [o]f ten she had not. [Yet, ] [w]hat did it matter! [...
] [S]he [had] possession of self-assertion which she [... ] recognized as the strongest impulse of her being" (Chopin 553). Thus, making her freedom worth more than her life. Mrs.
Mallard in "The Story of an Hour" realizes her husband's death has presented her with a new sense of freedom that she revealed through an invigorating "sexual" experience. She was able to rejoice, but only briefly. At the bottom of the stairs, her newfound freedom became threatened by the return of her spouse. Unwilling to give up hey discovery, her will to live was diminished and thus, through death, Mrs. Mallard remains "[f]red! Body and soul [... ]" (Chopin 553).
Work Cited Chopin, Kate. "The Story of an Hour." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 9 th ed. Eds. X.
J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman, 2005. 552-553. Chopin, Kate.
"The Storm." Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 9 th ed. Eds. X.
J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman, 2005. 127- 131.