The possibilities of freedom for women were unlikely for women living in the late nineteenth century. Women were confined and overpowered by men. Kate Chopin, a women of the late nineteenth century herself, was a writer living within such a society. In "The Story of an Hour" (1894), Kate Chopin uses elements of settings--windows and door--in order to highlight the possibilities of freedom and the threat of confinement for women in late nineteenth century American society.
Chopin uses figurative language of symbols and imagery to conflate the possibility of freedom with the physical setting outside the window. Chopin uses the “open” window as a symbol to suggest freedom: She juxtaposes the comfortable, roomy armchair with the window to demonstrate Mrs. Mallard's feelings of freedom and comfortability within her own home now that her husband is dead. Mrs. Mallard looks out of her window into the endless opportunities she is now able to dream of:"There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair"(Chopin 147).
She uses the “tops of the trees” as symbolic imagery to describe how Mrs. Mallard is now feeling free. The spatial relation between Mrs. Mallard and the trees outside is used to suggest that freedom has become more tangible than before: "She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life" (Chopin 147). Chopin uses taste imagery to suggest that Mrs. Mallard has become more aware of her own senses and perception of freedom:"The delicious breath of rain was in the air"(147).
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Chopin conflates the patches of blue sky--a symbol of hope--to emphasize the unbounded prospects Mrs. Mallard now has facing her. Color imagery is used to suggest positive emotion: "There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window" (Chopin 148). Chopin uses onomatopoeia--twittering sparrows--to evoke new life. The spatial relation between Mrs. Mallard and the eaves suggests she is closer to freedom and the outside world.
"Countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves" (Chopin 148). The conflation of symbols and imagery with the possibility of freedom suggests Mrs. Mallard is beginning to feel independent as a women in the late nineteenth century. The possibilities of freedom are becoming more of a reality for Mrs. Mallard. Chopin conflates the spatial relation between Mrs. Mallard and the outside world with sensory imagery to make the possibilities of freedom concrete.
Chopin conflates the spatial imagery --“something coming at her”-- between Mrs. Mallard and the unknown to suggest that freedom is something new to her: “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully”(148). Chopin uses animal imagery--“creeping”-- to suggest that freedom, once distant, has now become concrete and close. Sense imagery is used to portray new life: “She felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air" (Chopin 148).
Chopin uses the color of Mrs. Mallards white hands as imagery to conflate and compare with heaven; the unknown. “She was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been”(148). The reality that Mrs. Mallard is beginning to feel freedom is something she would have never of dreamed for herself as a women living in her time.
Chopin begins to manipulate the temporal setting by conflating the past and the present. Chopin is able to manipulate the temporal setting, symbolically, by foreshadowing the future. She conflates the present, new life and freedom, with the future, death: "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"(Chopin 148). Again, Chopin manipulates the temporal setting by conflating the present, a bitter moment, with Mrs. Mallard’s future freedom: “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely”(148).
Chopin juxtaposes the “open window” with magical medicine, an “elixir” to portray the remedial feeling of freedom Mrs. Mallard is experiencing:"She was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window" (Chopin 149). Chopin manipulates the temporal setting of the present to suggest a positive future for Mrs. Mallard: "Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own" (Chopin 149). Chopin conflates Mrs. Mallard’s past feelings of infinite confinement, with her present feelings of everlasting freedom suggesting there may be a long lived future for Mrs. Mallard. “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long”(148). The manipulation of time allows Chopin to takes us into the future where endless possibilities await.
Chopin conflates the physical setting--doors--with the possibility of freedom and confinement. Chopin uses the locked door as a metaphor to show that Mrs. Mallard is now in control, something that hasn’t happened before: “Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the key-hold; imploring admission”(149). Chopin juxtaposes the idea that Mrs. Mallard was confined and ill before she was in control of her own confinement with the idea she is getting better at last with newfound freedom: “Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill”(149).
Chopin conflates Mrs. Mallard standing up with the action of opening her own door to demonstrate how the possibility of freedom has given her a newfound confidence: “She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities”(149). As the door is opened by a man, Chopin uses the latchkey as a symbol of confinement to suggest that there is still an inequality between men and women:“Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who had entered”(149). Chopin has brought the reality of confinement and inequality back to life as Mrs. Mallard dies as a women in the late nineteenth century locked in her house.
In "The Story of an Hour" (1894), Kate Chopin uses elements of settings--windows and door--in order to highlight the possibilities of freedom and the threat of confinement for women in late nineteenth century American society. The possibilities of freedom for women were unlikely for women living in the late nineteenth century as women were confined and overpowered by men.
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