An Argumentative Paper on the Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
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Chopin’s longing to convert her central character from a female possessing a “dull stare in her eyes” (353) to a woman with “a feverish triumph in her eyes,” a woman who holds “herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (354), required a force of outstanding strength, a power as forceful as a mixture of a rape or a meeting by the Holy Spirit, and a sexual meeting–or, in other words, a deux ex machina.
The Story of an Hour (1894) is definitely Kate Chopin’s masterpiece of short fiction. Countless students, varying from the very immature to the exceptionally cultured, must have struggled with the fictional piece in thoughts and writings. As all booklovers should have the same opinion here is a short analysis of the story. Louise Mallard, the protagonist, is given a huge shock, endures a swift series of reactions, is in a sense awakened and then appears to wallow in “a very elixir of life” (354), and in conclusion sustains one more distress, a turnaround, which appears to be lethal. Is Louise a typical, comprehensible, compassionate woman, or is she a self-centered, egotistical monster of abnormality? Moreover, we argue that, whether the scale of “self-assertion” or independence that she believes she has accomplished is an actual possibility in an environment of regular human relationships.
We support our thesis by reflecting on some lines of the passage. “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully”. What was it? She did not know: it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, and the color that filled the air.
Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white hands would have been. When she abandoned herself, a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “Free, free, free!” “The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” (353)
The mentioned “something,” and the word “it,” which strangely lands from the sky, applies a commanding bodily pressure on Louise and stays with her shadowing a completely novel viewpoint on herself and her position in the design of things. In a partial breathing space, and without the support of any psychological expressions, Chopin would perhaps have been required to depend on the imprecise and the undisclosed, which, we can only evaluate, is some influential strength, something mystical, something ahead of the realm of ordinary knowledge or the regulation of judgment. (Bender, 2005)
There can be no uncertainty that the basic passage develops into a moderately unambiguous portrayal of a sexual blending. One of the connotations of the verb “possess” is) to have sexual contact with (a woman) and this denotation was definitely recognized by Chopin, as demonstrated by the climactic (that word, unluckily, is unavoidable) passage of “The Storm,” the sexual joining together of Alcée and Calixta: “And when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life’s mystery” (595). In addition to this, the third paragraph mentioned above does propose coitus and post-coital responses: the desertion, the “slightly parted lips,” the “keen and bright eyes,” and specifically the final words–“Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.”
There is no name of a male aggressor-partner in the text, merely a “something,” letting us naturally speculate. For me, two possibilities are likely–both paranormal–of which, again and again, I am reminiscent of as I reflect on the passage: one is traditional, pagan; and the other one, Christian. The previous is Leda and the swan where Zeus, a powerful, menacing force which sneaks from the “sky” assaults, and produced a world-shaking path of events. But the writing is related to more than horror, power, and sex: it is also on the subject of eagerness, contentment, and in due course enlightenment. As a consequence, I am reminiscent of the descent of the Christian Holy Spirit, who is related with commencement, regeneration, empowerment, motivation, illumination, and liberty. Louise does certainly obtain a combination of awareness from a resource that appears to be above normal human perception. Add to these the biased reactions Chopin’s conviction that authentic sexual obsession itself may aid the blind observe, for instance: after Edna Pontellier’s initial sexual encounter with Arobin, she has a variety of responses; yet, “above all, there was understanding. She felt as if a mist had been lifted from her eyes, enabling her to look upon and comprehend the significance of life, that monster made up of beauty and brutality” (967).
The Story of an Hour lacks the type of visual lucidity that we may anticipate, primarily or even completely, as I have tried to propose, because of one inquisitive passage. Chopin’s longing to convert her central character from a female possessing a “dull stare in her eyes” (353) to a woman with “a feverish triumph in her eyes,” a woman who holds “herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” (354), required a force of outstanding strength, a power as forceful as a mixture of a rape or a meeting by the Holy Spirit, and a sexual meeting–or, in other words, a deux ex machina. It is no doubt that in sheer seven sentences, this power stays confusing, perhaps mysterious. One concluding point, nevertheless, is flawlessly obvious: having tried out with one incredibly reduced story of an awakening–the description of a plain hour–Chopin afterwards continued to generate one of the magnum opus of American Literature–the gradually paced, expressively convincing, many staged awakening of Edna Pontellier. (Padgett, 2004)
Bender, Bert. “Kate Chopin’s Lyrical Short Stories.” Studies in Short Fiction 11 (2005): 257-66. Chopin, Kate. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Ed. Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. Padgett, Jacqueline Olson. “Kate Chopin and the Literature of the Annunciation, with a Reading of ‘Lilacs.'” Louisiana Literature 11.1 (2004): 97-107.
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