The martial paradigm in the nineteenth century was exponentially different than what it is today. Historically, marriage was more of a business contract between a wealthy man and a beautiful woman, rather than the coming together of two equals. Therefore, if these standards weren’t followed, the woman was always to blame. The irony in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin emphasizes how marital standards caused emotional repression of women of the nineteenth century.
It’s no surprise that women who lived through this time period would choose to keep their feelings to themselves. After the news of her husband’s death broke, Mrs. Mallard was described as “drinking in a very elixir of life through an open window.” To the public, losing a husband was seen as a genuine loss, that the woman would no longer have someone to provide for her. To the woman herself, depending on the situation, this may not have always been the case. Like Mrs. Mallard’s situation, many women were in unfulfilling relationships due to these standards and lack of heart in these marriages. During this time period, it was abnormal for a woman to feel reborn at the loss of her husband. Consequently, the irony in this sentence disobeys the emotion Mrs. Mallard would’ve been expected to feel during this tragedy, and highlights the relief of her imprisonment.
Being repressed during the long duration of her marriage, Mrs. Mallard did not get to enjoy her freedom for very long. It is important to note that within an hour’s time, Mrs. Mallard went from being liberated, to experiencing the catharsis of realizing her husband had survived the accident. Described by her friends, she had “died of heart disease-of joy that kills.” Mrs. Mallard had forgotten how to live a life of freedom. However, this liberty only lasted a few short minutes. While descending the stairs, Mrs. Mallard saw the front door creak open. It was her captor: Brently Mallard. The situational irony in this scene accentuates the restrained feelings of Mrs. Mallard. Everyone around her believes that she had died of joy. That her heart couldn’t handle the adrenaline rush of seeing her thought-to-be late husband. However, no one around her saw the genuine reason as to why her heart couldn’t handle the sight of seeing him again. The phrase “of joy that kills” in this sentence is an overstatement, the thing that killed Mrs. Mallard is disappointment.
The marital standards of the nineteenth century substantially affected women. Many of these women withheld their emotions to avoid criticism from the public eye. Like Mrs. Mallard in “The Story of an Hour,” many women were imprisoned in their own marriages due to the materialistic benefits. This emotional repression in this short story caused multiple ironic situations between the characters, thus helping it emphasize the severity of this issue during this time period.
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