Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is a short story which exemplifies a woman's dream of being free from the constraints of an unloving and undesirable marriage. This story, through vivid descriptions, portrays a woman's tormented lifetime and then exposes the momentary joy she feels when that torment surprisingly vanishes. Louise Mallard, the main character or protagonist, is a frail woman with a heart condition who upon being told her husband has died in a railroad accident, grieves for a moment, then becomes immensely delighted because she will be free to live her own life, that is until her husband walks in the door. At that moment, Mrs. Mallard passes away, and as the events unfold, it becomes clear that the theme of this story is not her physical death, but ironically, it is her short-lived, emotional resurrection. Kate Chopin cleverly reveals a lifetime of self-sacrifice by emphasizing the literary elements, symbolism, imagery, and foreshadowing. Through these three literary elements, Chopin illustrates that Louise Mallard gave her life for and to her husband, physically, emotionally, and eventually, literally.
The literary term symbolism corresponds to a person, object or event that, in addition to its literal meaning, suggests a more complex meaning. Mrs. Mallard herself is a symbol of self-sacrifice. This story was written in the 1890's, a time when the institution of marriage was considered sacred. Selena Jamil, literary critic, points out, "The patriarchy of that time mandated the complete dependence of wives on husbands, making marriage a form of slavery" (216). Also, many women went into marriage as a means of survival and financial security instead of true love. Mrs. Mallard represents women of her time period who are unable to find happiness in marriage because their freedoms within the marriage are restricted; therefore, the fact that Mrs.