The Unachievable Pursuit of Freedom in the Short Story “The Story of an Hour”

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Freedom is a virtue one may look at, as equivalent to life. In Kate Chopin’s short story,”Story of an Hour,” and Edith Wharton’s novel, Ethan Frome, the characters pursuit of of freedom is unachievable. Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton use natural imagery to reflect their characters state of freedom from their marriage. While the depressing cold mimics Ethan’s lack of freedom from his wife, the blue skies mirror Mrs. Mallard’s liberation from the death of her husband. In both literary works, the theme of dominating marriages affect the protagonists as they want to break the shackles from their spouses. For Ethan he feels sympathy for his wife and it is hard for him to follow through, which is a contrast to Mrs. Mallard’s excitement from her husband’s death. Ultimately, the ironic way in which the characters meet their end signifies that the pursuit of freedom is unachievable. Ethan’s attempt to grasp freedom through suicide only makes him more dependent on his wife, while the arrival of her alive husband ends Mrs. Mallard’s life. In Ethan Frome, and “Story of an Hour”, the natural imagery and ironic end convey unfulfilled freedom which is caused by oppressive spouses.

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In Ethan Frome and “Story of an Hour,” the character’s freedom or lack of freedom is reflected through nature. In “Story of an Hour,” the weather is jovial thus representing Mrs. Mallard’s freedom. Instead of grieving with her friends and family about her husband’s death, Mrs. Mallard goes upstairs and opens a window and is uplifted by nature. As she is staring at the “patches of blue sky” she feels the excitement of her husband’s death rise inside as she is granted freedom (Chopin 1). The color blue is a universal symbol for tranquility and stability and as she opens the window Mrs. Mallard receives these traits along with freedom. By escaping her oppressive husband she can live in peace with herself and be independent. Not only does she get rejuvenated by the blue sky, but also by the “delicious breath of rain” as she is cleansed from oppression. This image of her being purified by water signifies a baptismal moment. Mrs. Mallard was tied down by her oppressive husband or sins and by washing away all this dread she is liberated and rebom. This rebirth is also seen in the environment around her as it is bustling with a “new spring life”. In spring nature comes back to life after hiding from the depressing winter just as Mrs. Mallard comes back to life when she is given freedom. This flourishing nature absolves her from her husband. Thus, the natural imagery in “Story of an Hour” creates a positive and joyful mood that indicate Mrs. Mallard achieved freedom.

The natural imagery in “Story of an Hour” is uplifting, therefore it reflects freedom, in contrast to the depressing nature in Ethan Frome that signifies the lack of freedom. Winter keeps everyone locked inside, and also Ethan from his freedom as he struggles through “too many winters” and can not escape (Wharton 13). Winter is a symbol for death as it stunts natures growth and is cold and barren. Thus, this negativity parallels Ethan as his freedom Cannot grow under these circumstances and by going through more than one winter there are no vital signs of his independence. The downcasting scenery has an extreme impact on Ethan as he is an “incarnation of its frozen woe” and he cannot melt this ice as his freedom is achievable. He embodies the troubles that the cold weather inflicts upon the living but his case is more severe. Therefore, Ethan Frome is a warning sign of what happens when one lives through many winters and whose liberation is denied because of this. Even though Ethan does not escape from this harsh weather, it does not mean he does not want to. He actually longs to achieve freedom but the weather infringes his pursuit as it freezes the shackles upon his hands and denies his escape. Finally, when Ethan Frome sees the beauty of nature he is hurt as he feels like it “mocks his wretchedness” that he cannot pursue freedom.

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The Unachievable Pursuit of Freedom in the Short Story "The Story of an Hour". (2022, Oct 06). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from

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