This Life Will Be the Death of Me
The Victorian era, the period from 1837 to 1901, was a time in which the monarch of Great Britain was seen as the “ideal woman” figure. All such women figures were to be adorned and cared for like fragile valuables. Women were to marry, bear children, and tend to the home. With little responsibilities came little power and little allowance of progression. Louise Mallard’s socially abnormal and emotional transformation from wife to individual in The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin illustrates the loss of, but longing for, self-worth and identity that women experienced as oppressed Victorian wives.
Women in Victorian society endured psychological oppression from their husbands, which hindered their ability to develop themselves as individuals. Louise Mallard contemplated her new life quickly after she was informed of her husband’s death. The loss of Mr. Mallard symbolizes the extermination of the customary way of life for Mrs. Mallard. Louise viewed marriage in keeping with society’s belief that men “have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature” (Chopin 787). In a sense, the institution of marriage was not a knot tied between man and woman, but rather a leash attached to the woman to be guided by the man. Mrs. Mallard was her social identity and the mask to conceal her true self from everyone – including herself. Mrs. Mallard, though suddenly swept with grief upon hearing of her husband’s death, soon grasped the conditions of her current circumstances. As she sat before the open window, she “c[a]me to understand reaction and potential action, social self – Mrs. Mallard – and private, female self – Louise” (Papke 63). Her life would soon bring about a completely new identity in which she would act and think for herself for the first time. Mrs. Mallard had no private identity – or none unique to those in the similar situation – to claim to, and this was the first treasure that Louise,...