Symbolism in ‘The Story of an Hour’: Marital Inequality and Feminist Liberation

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Unveiling Feminist Undertones: Identity, Equality, and Marital Roles in Chopin’s Story

In her short story, Chopin addresses many of the concerns that are central to feminism, including the idea that a woman has a unique identity distinct from the character of her husband. These would include a woman’s right to identify and experience her interests. Feminism refers to a set of ideologies and social movements where the goal is to advocate for the equality of all sexes and the belief that women should be viewed and treated in the same way as men.

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In her story, Chopin uses the main character to highlight the deep-rooted issues faced by women in their marriages, topics that they do not talk about it. Besides, men and women have unequal roles in marriages, according to the story. The main character’s reaction after the death of her husband is a clear sign that she had been stuck in an unhappy marriage where she did not have an opportunity to be heard or to have opinions that mattered. Furthermore, the story depicts marriage as an institution that, instead of empowering women, puts restraints against them by giving husbands the ultimate power to impose their every will onto their wives.

Symbolism in ‘The Story of an Hour’: Exploring the Struggle for Freedom and Identity

From the story also, it is evident that the women or wives did not have any other choice or alternative rather than to do whatever the will of their husbands was. Chopin writes that “And yet she had loved him sometimes. Often she had not.” This goes to show the attitude that Louise had towards her husband. Even in the incidences when the husband was a gentleman, the mere lack of individuality and freedom was enough to make the woman feel inferior to the man. From the story, it is evident that Louise’s husband’s death had given her newfound freedom, and she could now be in control over her life without necessarily being a slave doing according to her husband’s wishes rather than what she would have wanted to do. As such, Chopin uses the short story to bring out the delicate balance and the inequality that women are subject to both in marriage and in society.

Louise, the protagonist, has a heart condition, and as such, it is necessary for her to be informed about her husband’s death in a gentle manner. After learning about her husband’s death, it starts to dawn on her the level of freedom that she will have, and this is empowering. During that hour, she is locked away in her room, and Louise is delighted about regaining her independence. This is not something that is usually expected from a woman who has just lost her husband, which goes to show that she had just been tolerating life with her husband, and now that she had a chance to be free again. The protagonist’s reaction was a reflection of how women in the 19th century felt about their marriages and how the institution had taken away the women’s identity and made them bitter puppets looking for an escape.

Unveiling the Chains of Patriarchy: A Feminist Examination of Marriage in ‘The Story of an Hour’

Louise felt restrained by marriage, and it is quite sad that she thought of her husband’s death as a way to escape from the poorness she was living. In her marriage, independence was a pleasure. She knew nothing about it. She had been trapped under the control of her husband just because she was a woman. Also, looking through the window, she realized that her marriage had turned her into someone who had no identity, away from her husband.

In an article by Berenji, the author explains how the female character in Kate Chopin’s, The Story of an Hour is oppressed by a patriarchal authority in her marriage and her liberation from the oppression. The author further explains that feminist narratologists and female authors make use of time techniques in a bid to negotiate or resist the patriarchy and facilitate the liberation of women. These are the same concept used by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in The Yellow Wallpaper.

There are multiple issues that the feminist movement seeks to address, key among them being the issues of domestic violence, women’s suffrage, equal pay, and reproductive rights, among various others. There is interference that makes it difficult for women to become successful regardless of their talents. These obstacles include things like the fact that often, women do not get as sufficient money as their male counterparts in the same profession as men do, these women’s domestic responsibilities, society’s failure to support these talented women, and women fearing to annoy their husbands from all their success. Through her literature, Chopin can use Louise to show how dire the situation is to the extent that instead of grieving her dead husband, she rejoices at the fact that she will be able to recover her independence.

Marital Imprisonment and Inequality: The Bitter Reality of Women’s Status in ‘The Story of an Hour’

To Louise, marriage is a restraint, and her husband’s death frees her from it. Unlike men in marriage, women lose their independence while the men continue with their routines with nobody instructing them on how to behave or carry themselves. Freedom and independence to a married woman during that time can seem like a forbidden pleasure. The feminist movement seeks to eliminate these limitations for women by advocating for better treatment that can lead to empowering them to live their best lives and demand better. Even though it was just for an hour, Louise was able to experience her independence because she was no longer under her husband’s control. While she was reminiscing, looking through the window, she realized that she did not have an identity. She could only identify as her husband’s wife and nothing beyond that.

According to Chambers (1), feminists have criticized the institution of marriage for a long time because it creates a great avenue for women to be oppressed, especially because married women do not have a lot of independent rights within the law. In addition to this, there is the gendered division of labor where women get to handle the most significant share of caring and domestic work. In addition to this, women still get paid lower amounts than men for the work that they do outside the household. As such, since traditional marriage is oppressive to women, being married makes those who are married miserably, especially if these people are women. Women tend to be less independent in marriage compared to men, just like in Louise’s predicament. Women are also subject to domestic violence because of the marital concept of entitlement, where the married man thinks that he owns the woman (Kingston 160) only because he has married her.

Inherited Inequality: The Perpetuation of Women’s Subjugation in Marriage in ‘The Story of an Hour’

Marriage, especially in the earlier centuries, had women feeling as though they did not have any rights over their bodies, their possessions, their children, and even the lives they lived. In Chopin’s story, the protagonist felt trapped because getting married also meant doing away with her own identity meaning that she ultimately became her husband’s property. Feminists also argue that marriage, especially traditional marriages tend to harm the women’s position in society because it portrays them being inferior. This inferiority comes from constraining the women’s options and their ambitions as well compared to the impact that it has on men (Okin 142). The position of women as an entire gender is harmful because of the things that women tolerate in marriage, and this kind of inequality is carried on from one generation to the next.

In the story, Louise is an excellent example of the life and misery an average housewife lives in without her identity and freedom. The protagonist only felt brief sorrow after the death of her husband, but for the next hour, she was free and liberated as well. This does not mean that she did not love her husband or that her husband did not love her. It goes to show that the inequality in the marriage setting made her unhappy and restrained. These are the kinds of things the feminist movement tries to empower women to stand up against it.


  1. Berenji, G. (Date of publication). (Title of the specific work by Berenji). (Publisher if available).
  2. Chambers, P. (Date of publication). (Title of the specific work by Chambers). (Publisher if available).
  3. Chopin, K. (1894). The Story of an Hour. Vogue.
  4. Gilman, C. P. (1892). The Yellow Wallpaper. The New England Magazine.
  5. Kingston, P. (Date of publication). (Title of the specific work by Kingston). (Publisher if available).
  6. Okin, S. M. (Date of publication). (Title of the specific work by Okin). (Publisher if available).
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Symbolism in 'The Story of an Hour': Marital Inequality and Feminist Liberation. (2023, Aug 01). Retrieved from