When most people envision the death of a loved one, tragedy, loss, mourning and denial most often come to mind. This person has usually become such a crucial part of one's life that her/his death can seem as if fragments of one's own identity are lost. However, women in the 19th-century did not have an identity without a man, so it would be understandable for a woman to feel that she is finally free to find her own, autonomous self once her husband has died. It is difficult for me, as well as many other modern, liberated women to relate to this, because we are free to have an identity, regardless of whether we are married or not. When reading Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," (1891) I had to come to terms with my own feelings of identity in order to sympathize with the main character, Mrs. Mallard. .
Mrs. Mallard does not react to her husband's death as one would expect, and her emotional and physical life change drastically within the hour that the story takes place. After grappling with and setting aside my own feelings on death and the sanctity of love and marriage, I determined that Mrs. Mallard's reaction to her husband's death was not only a result of her shock, but an escape from her husband. While I have always been a free women, she tastes freedom for the first time in her life when she is no longer identified by her husband. I believe that Mrs. Mallard is not punished for her insensitivity towards her husband's death, but instead she symbolically enters a world where she could finally be liberated, at least for awhile, from her husband. While I can be free my entire life, Mrs. Mallard can be her own self only in death. .
Whereas most people would feel lost and devastated when they discovered that their husband or wife had died, Mrs. Mallard feels initially shocked, but paradoxically, she is liberated and elated by her husband's death. Mrs. Mallard went from someone who was defined by her husband, to a free woman in little less than an hour; however, she could not relish her freedom because her husband was really alive.