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- 9th Grade
- Lexile: 970
Source: Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin
|PART A: Which of the following best describes a major theme of the text?
|Newfound independence can bring the promise of freedom and happiness into a person’s life.
|PART B: Which of the following quotes best supports the answer to Part A?
|“There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers” (Paragraph 12).
|How does the news of her husband’s death affect Mrs. Mallard?
|She is at first overcome with grief, but soon she realizes that his death will allow her to lead an independent life.
|What do paragraphs 15-16 reveal about Josephine’s and Louise’s different points of view in the passage?
|Josephine misunderstands Louise and believes she is sick with grief, but in reality, Louise feels freed by her husband’s death.
How does Mrs. Mallard’s death in the conclusion contribute to the story’s overall meaning? Cite evidence in your answer.
Mrs. Mallard’s death in the conclusion of “The Story of An Hour” contributes significantly to the story’s overall meaning by illustrating the tragic irony and the fragile nature of freedom for women during the era in which the story is set.
The story builds up the theme of newfound independence and the joy of personal freedom through Mrs. Mallard’s internal realization upon hearing of her husband’s death.
She envisions a future where she can live for herself, without being controlled by anyone else. This is evident in her whispered words, “free, free, free!” and her thoughts about the years ahead that “would belong to her absolutely” (Paragraph 12).
However, this newfound sense of freedom and joy is abruptly cut short by her sudden death upon seeing her husband, who is actually alive.
The doctors’ conclusion that she died of “the joy that kills” is deeply ironic. It implies that the shock of losing her newly anticipated freedom was too overwhelming for Mrs. Mallard, whose heart condition symbolizes her physical and emotional fragility under the constraints of her marriage and societal expectations.
Thus, her death at the end serves as a stark commentary on the limited and conditional nature of a woman’s freedom during that era. It underscores the message that for women like Mrs. Mallard, true independence and the joy it brings are fleeting and can be as fragile as life itself.
This tragic ending enhances the story’s exploration of themes such as freedom, independence, and the oppressive structures of marriage and society for women in the 19th century.
Why do you think Mrs. Mallard married Brently? Do you think Mrs. Mallard loves her husband? Explain your answer.
The story “The Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin does not explicitly state why Mrs. Mallard married Brently, so any answer to this question would be speculative. However, considering the social and historical context of the late 19th century, when the story was written, marriages were often more about social and economic stability than romantic love. Women, in particular, had limited rights and opportunities, and marrying was often one of the few ways they could secure their financial and social status.
Regarding whether Mrs. Mallard loves her husband, the text presents a complex and nuanced picture. There are indications that she has affection for him. For instance, the story mentions, “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead.” This suggests a certain level of care and recognition of her husband’s affection for her.
However, the story also strongly suggests that Mrs. Mallard feels a sense of relief and liberation at the news of her husband’s death. She repeats the word “free” to herself, and the narrative describes her feeling of freedom and the joy of living for herself in the future. This reaction implies that, while she may have had some form of love for her husband, her marriage also represented a form of repression and a limitation on her independence.
While Mrs. Mallard may have had affection for Brently, her reaction to his death indicates that her feelings were complex and possibly overshadowed by the constraints that her marriage imposed on her personal freedom.
Were the moments before Mrs. Mallard’s death happy? What do you think is significant about the last line? Explain your answer.
The moments before Mrs. Mallard’s death in “The Story of An Hour” were paradoxically both happy and deeply ironic. Mrs. Mallard experiences a profound sense of happiness and liberation upon believing that her husband has died. She revels in the newfound sense of freedom and the anticipation of living her life for herself. This is evident in her thoughts about the future and her repeated whisper of “free, free, free!” She feels a joyous sense of release from the restraints of her marriage, which had limited her independence.
However, this happiness is steeped in tragic irony, highlighted by the story’s last line: “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease — of the joy that kills.” This line is significant for several reasons:
- Irony: The doctors’ interpretation that she died of “the joy that kills” is deeply ironic. They assume that her death was caused by the overwhelming joy of seeing her husband alive, not realizing that it was actually the shock and despair of losing her newfound freedom. This irony underscores the story’s critique of the limited understanding and expectations society had for women’s emotions and roles at the time.
- Commentary on Women’s Freedom: The last line also serves as a commentary on the fragile and fleeting nature of women’s freedom in the 19th century. Mrs. Mallard’s brief experience of joy and liberation is abruptly ended, symbolizing how women’s independence was often curtailed by societal and domestic constraints.
- Literal and Figurative Meaning: On a literal level, the heart disease represents her physical vulnerability. Figuratively, it symbolizes the emotional and psychological constraints imposed on her by her marriage and societal norms. Her heart condition can be seen as both a physical ailment and a metaphor for the oppressive circumstances of her life.
The moments before Mrs. Mallard’s death were filled with a happiness born from a sense of liberation, but this happiness was tragically short-lived. The last line of the story encapsulates the ironies and complexities of Mrs. Mallard’s situation, offering a poignant critique of the societal constraints on women during the era.
How is this text a critique of Victorian social norms? What, if any, reform does it suggest? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.
“The Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin is a critique of Victorian social norms, particularly regarding marriage, gender roles, and women’s independence. The story subtly but powerfully challenges the status quo of the late 19th century.
- Critique of Marriage and Gender Roles: The story highlights the repressive nature of marriage during the Victorian era, especially for women. Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to her husband’s death – her feeling of freedom and relief – speaks volumes about the constraints she felt in her marriage. This reaction is a subtle condemnation of the societal norms that expected women to be entirely dependent on and subservient to their husbands. In Victorian society, marriage was often not an equal partnership but a domain where women’s needs and desires were secondary to those of their husbands.
- Women’s Independence: The story also critiques the limited scope for women’s independence. Mrs. Mallard’s joy at the thought of living for herself, making her own decisions, and being free from a husband’s will is a powerful statement against the societal norms that confined women to domestic spheres and made them reliant on male relatives or spouses. The narrative emphasizes her internal realization of personal freedom as a cherished and exhilarating experience, which was a radical idea at the time.
- Suggested Reform: While the story does not explicitly propose a specific reform, it implicitly suggests the need for greater autonomy and rights for women. By portraying Mrs. Mallard’s deep emotional response to her brief experience of independence, Chopin is advocating for a societal shift in how women are viewed and treated.
In terms of evidence from other literature, art, or history, Chopin’s narrative resonates with the broader feminist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Writers like Virginia Woolf and Charlotte Perkins Gilman similarly explored themes of female independence and critique of societal norms in their works.
Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” for example, delves into the themes of mental health and women’s autonomy, critiquing the patriarchal medical practices of the time.
From a historical perspective, the late Victorian era was a time of growing awareness and activism for women’s rights. The suffragette movement, which gained momentum in the early 20th century, was rooted in these growing calls for reform.
The story by Chopin can be seen as a part of this broader cultural and social context, where there was increasing critique of the traditional roles and rights (or the lack thereof) accorded to women.
In summary, “The Story of An Hour” critiques the repressive nature of marriage and the limited independence afforded to women in Victorian society. It subtly suggests the need for societal reform towards greater recognition of women’s rights and autonomy.
In the context of this text, what are the effects of discrimination against women? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.
In the context of Kate Chopin’s “The Story of An Hour,” the effects of discrimination against women are depicted through the protagonist’s emotional and psychological state, revealing the deep-seated impacts of societal constraints on women during the Victorian era.
- Emotional and Psychological Repression: The story illustrates how societal norms and discrimination against women lead to emotional and psychological repression. Mrs. Mallard’s initial response to her husband’s death and her subsequent feeling of freedom suggest that her marriage, while not overtly unhappy, was suffocating her individuality and desires. This reflects a broader societal issue where women were expected to conform to specific roles, suppressing their true selves.
- Lack of Autonomy: The narrative highlights the lack of autonomy experienced by women. Mrs. Mallard’s joy at the prospect of living for herself underscores how her life, like many women’s lives at the time, was dominated by her husband’s will and societal expectations. This lack of independence is a significant effect of discrimination, as it limits women’s ability to make decisions about their own lives.
- Health Impacts: The story also subtly touches on the health impacts of this repression. Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition can be interpreted as a metaphor for the toll that societal repression takes on women’s health. The shock and subsequent death upon seeing her husband alive again symbolize the devastating impact of having her brief taste of freedom and autonomy snatched away.
From a broader perspective, looking at other literature and historical contexts:
- Literature: Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” is another example that illustrates the mental and physical health consequences of the oppression of women. The protagonist’s descent into madness is a direct result of the rest cure prescribed to her for what was likely postpartum depression, reflecting how limited understanding and discrimination against women’s health issues had severe consequences.
- History and Art: The suffragette movement in the early 20th century was a response to the systemic discrimination against women. The fight for women’s right to vote was not just a political movement but also a statement against the broader discrimination that limited women’s roles in society.
The art and propaganda of the suffragette movement often depicted the injustice and effects of this discrimination, such as in the works of artists like Mary Cassatt, who portrayed the lives and struggles of women.
In personal experience and contemporary society, the effects of discrimination against women can still be observed, albeit in different forms. Workplace inequality, gender pay gaps, and underrepresentation in leadership positions are modern manifestations of this ongoing issue.
In summary, “The Story of An Hour” encapsulates the emotional and psychological effects of discrimination against women in its era. These effects are mirrored in various forms across history and contemporary society, highlighting the ongoing struggle against gender-based discrimination.