A Perfect Marriage: How Much Is Happiness Worth?

We all put a smile on our faces and pretend that everything is jolly because no one would want to know we have faults. Most of us want to be accepted by society, so we are willing to go above and beyond to hide our real feelings. We hide behind social media, uploading pictures of the good times and happy moments, but that’s all they are, moments. Putting up a persona for other people can be quite tiring. During the 19th century, in a time where the norm for a young lady was to marry a gentlemen who could provide regardless of whether she was in love or not, happiness played no part in marriage. The goal for everyone was to marry well. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” presents the issue of patriarchy within a marital relationship.

Louise Mallard’s reaction to the death of her husband is not what it first seems. After hearing the news of her husband, “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” (Chopin 556). Mallard seems to respond sincerely to the news as was expected. During her short time in the company of her sister and her husband’s friend, she could not show her true feelings because as a woman her husband is supposed to be her whole life. Her husband is a representation of who she is as a person. Her identity was dependent on him: “There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin 556). She was not happy about it but in a society where a woman is seen as less than a man she has no other option other than to hide her true emotions and present herself as a women who is content within her marriage.

Louise was trapped in a marriage by society because divorce was unheard of and considered to be unacceptable. Think of all the scandalous rumors that would float around town about a divorcé. The length of the marriage is neither said nor implied, but the impression that she could no longer stay married was pretty clear. Her private reaction to the news is somewhat shocking to the reader. As complex individuals, we all expect everything to be a certain way, like the “right” reaction from someone that has just lost a loved one. We neglect to see the depth of how marriage is not all happy and dandy, that there’s more than what meets the eye. In society, a wife is expected to feel as if she has lost herself after the death of her husband because she is “helpless” without him and no longer can enjoy life as a widow. The fact that Mrs. Mallard feels some joy about the death of her husband is similar to a wife who has set up to murder her husband, but all she saw was a way out of captivity. “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely” (Chopin 556). The line of whether she is a good person or not is blurred because there is a gray area. While her husband’s death is tragic, she saw all the ways her life will bring forth new adventures and opportunities.

Throughout the story, Louise’s heart trouble is brought up more than once, which makes it clear that both her physical heart and relationship with her husband were troubled. She is in a marriage where she is expected to hold up this image of fulfillment in society. Because she is a married woman, Louise feels she is never allowed to hint to anyone that she is unhappy. As Louise looks outside the window, she sees and feels “the delicious breath of rain was in the air” (Chopin 556). It is implied that after the rain comes a new beginning, a period of rebirth. This signifies the rebirth of her new found joy, having the freedom to live her life for herself and no longer live under her husband as a frail and fragile being. Mrs. Mallard feels a sense of relief because not only could she see all the opportunities ahead of her, she wanted to start desperately living for herself, not for her husband like society has taught her. The husband is not an antagonist; he is only seen as a man that is living within society, making sure he fit the picture of a husband and representing his role as a man like society expects from him.”… No powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and woman believe they have a right to impose a private will upon  fellow-creature”(Chopin 556-57). He could not see his wife as an equal because society did not see her as such.

I have always found it hard to express myself as an individual because I’m always thinking of ways I should be acting for people to like and accept me. Some people find it easy to tell others how they feel and how they should be treated, but when it comes to me, I usually allowed people to treat me however they wanted, which was not always the best thing. I would accept it because I wanted people around so I would not be alone. Refusing to express myself verbally had put me in a position of not appreciating who I am as a complex being. As people began to treat me as if I did not matter, I began to perceive myself the way they saw me. Reading this short story and understanding the main character’s point of view has opened my eyes to how bad my situation was, acting a certain way just for people to accept me while I am dying inside. I have learned thus far in life that I am pretty freaking awesome, and I deserve to be treated with respect. While I am gradually learning to stand up for myself, I am still not where I want to be, and this short story has somehow put it into perspective because I do not wish to live for others while my joy and happiness die within myself.

We all have things that we put off until last minute, thinking that we will have time to complete it but in reality we are just further delaying our joy and freedom. Mrs. Mallard thought that she finally had her chance at happiness after her husband’s supposed death but he returned and every thought of the adventures that she was going to have went down the drain. We must seize every moment and opportunity that we have by putting our happiness first and foremost. If we delay those moments, we might end up like Mrs. Mallard, a woman that wanted so much out of life and thought she finally had her break but unfortunately died before she could experience her own joy and fulfillment in life.

Work Cited

Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Eds.             Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: Norton, 2012. 555-557. Print.

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