Sociological Criticism: Kate Chopin’s The Story of An Hour
During the nineteenth century many women’s rights, freedoms, and overall independence was suppressed by a male dominant society.
With this patriarchal functioning of the world, the female gender conformed to basic domestic roles that gave them little significance throughout society.
One particular text that illustrates the social behavior of society during this time period is Kate Chopin’s, The Story of An Hour.
In the literary piece the central character, Louise Mallard, exists as a woman who endures suppression due to her status in society.
Throughout the story Chopin creates an intriguing plot that uses the subject of sociological criticism, focusing on the values and conventions of society through the nineteenth century.
In the text, Mallard serves as a character that is oppressed by several factors.
One being her extreme heart trouble which often keeps her withdrawn from society and makes her incapable of accomplishing many things.
In the piece Chopin gives indication of Mallard’s confinement when she writes, “she was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression…” (Chopin).
Throughout the story the reader can assume that Mallard’s illness has kept her home much of the time, leaving her to only fulfill household duties while her husband is able to pursue a successful career in the workforce.
The author uses satire comparing her illness and weakness to the inferior role of women throughout society.
Furthermore, Chopin’s use of satire in the text provides constructive social criticism on the norms of society during that time period.
Another factor that suppresses the main character is her husband.
Chopin again relates to the theme of sociological criticism, illustrating the male dominance in marital relationships.
The reader can predict that throughout her marriage, Mallard was submissive to her husband because she gains a sense of joy and freedom when she learns of his death. In the story the narrator details the protagonist’s thoughts, “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself.
There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin).
This quotation shows the overall confinement Mallard felt within her marriage.
Moreover, Chopin’s perception of marriage between the Mallard’s reflects the conventions of marriage during the nineteenth century in which the husband maintained complete power or authority over the wife.
An additional factor that withheld the protagonist from a sense of freedom was her own self. Throughout the text the reader discovers that Mallard’s heart trouble and confinement led to much of her depression and unhappiness.
However, instead of eventually becoming content with her lifestyle she lets the negative aspects her life defeat her.
As stated earlier, she only obtains a sense of peace and liberty when she learns that her husband is dead, which again gives him the control. Furthermore, Mr. Mallard’s role in her life either dead or alive controls her overall emotions.
The fact that the main character subconsciously allows her husband to direct her feelings and state of happiness shows how Mallard suppresses herself.
Ultimately, Chopin uses her text, The Story of An Hour to reflect the social behavior and overall traditions of society during the nineteenth century.
Furthermore, the Americanized idea of the dominant, working husband and the submissive and obedient housewife is portrayed in the story.
The author did not only create a text that analyzed the characteristics of her surrounding environment, but she also introduced a work that spoke loud against the conventional standards of a patriarchal society.
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