Gender Roles in Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour: Stereotypes and Marriage


The Story of An Hour is one of my favorite stories by Kate Chopin. If you have not yet read it, it is only a couple pages long, and I implore you to do so! She has a very unique writing style that she developed due to her bi-cultural upbringing. In this specific story, the ending will blow you away!

A Short Biography on Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin Source: Wiki Media

Kate Chopin
Source: Wiki Media

Kate was born in 1850 into a family with bi-cultural ties. She grew up learning within the English language as well the French language, and French influence is very prominent in her writings due to this bi-cultural ism. As a young child, Kate was nurtured and taught by the nuns of the two schools she attended. The schools she attended were the Academy of the Sacred Hear and the Academy of the Visitation in St. Louis. During the years of the Civil War, Kate Chopin experienced the death of her father, her grandmother, and her brother. Her brother had enlisted in the Confederate Army and died by Union hands:

  • One of her first sketches was written during this tough time called an Emancipation: A Life Fable.

Kate married at the age of nineteen to Oscar Chopin. They spent the next few months traveling around and visited places like Germany, Switzerland, and France. After their trip they settled down in New Orleans where they began to establish themselves. Mr. Chopin opened a cotton factory and later bought a general store. Shortly after, in 1882, Mr. Chopin died of malaria which left Kate Chopin as a widow at thirty two years old. 1890 marks the year of her first book, “At Fault”. The next decade Kate worked diligently to spearhead her image as a prominent writer. She wrote a few more novels and a hundred or so short stories. She was very successful when it came to publishing her stories in different magazines. During the summer of 1904 Kate Chopin died after visiting the St. Louis World’s Fair of a brain hemorrhage.

When reading Kate Chopin, keep her life in mind. Many of her experiences are expressed in the pages of her novels and the outcomes of her short stories.

A Short Analysis on a Short Story About One Hour in Time

Oscar Chopin Source: BCS

Oscar Chopin
Source: BCS

Gender roles and marriage, an interesting topic. In today’s society there is a decrease in marriage according to the Huffington post article “Marriage Rate Declines to Historic Low, Study Finds”. It states in the article that in 1960, in America, 72% of the country consisted of married couples. The study presented here was done in 2011 and showed only 51% of Americans married, but there is also an increase in domestic couples living together unmarried. Back in the 1800’s marriages were often arranged so there was less of a chance of marrying a person for love. This decline in marriage in today’s society could represent this decline in arranged marriage and an incline in people’s want for compatibility.

 In the “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin she expresses a hidden resentment toward men and the way the world looks down upon women. It is obvious when Mrs. Mallard found out about her husbands death then rejoiced that she was free. She even whispered “Free! Body and soul free!”. Mrs. Mallard, though having a heart problem, felt that she was able to do something with her life if it were not for the chains of a marriage. It was also a marriage that was possibly not even her choice. In today’s society woman can venture alone in the world with a sense of security that their gender won’t play a role in if they fail. She was so ready for that freedom so much so that she literally died of heart failure when her husband walked through the door.

Source: Ikea

Source: Ikea


Source: Luhbanjatwa

Symbols are revealed during the motif of marriage and oppression. First, Mrs. Mallard’s affliction can attribute to her ambivalence towards marriage and her distaste at her lack of freedom. Irony plays a role in her death when the doctor states it was due to happiness when in truth it was due from the opposite. Mrs. Mallard’s weak heart sets up a character that seems frail to the reader to increase the impact of her oppressive situation.

Second, the window Mrs. Mallard sits at for the entire story represents the endless possibilities that Mr. Mallard’s death has given her. As she explains the views outside it is as if the window is instilling new life within Mrs. Mallard. Mrs. Mallard was in acceptance about her situation when she heard about Mr. Mallard’s death and the open window was a catalyst that showed Mrs. Mallard a new sense of life. That new sense of life was all but destroyed when Mr. Mallard entered the dwelling very much alive.

A Film Adaptation of The Story of an Hour

Heading back to the ideas of marriage: Does this ideal exist today in today’s society? Is that why there is a decrease in marriage? In the end Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition bested her upon Mr. Mallard’s unsuspecting return. I for one can not picture my significant other’s death let alone the idea that I could be happy about it. This goes into my idea of love as a growing force. There is no love at first site because that is just too simple. Love is not simple, love is the calculus of the heart, so it is safe to assume there is a long, drawn out equation to love. Love takes time to grow into the ultimate force that creates a strong relationship. If it is too instant, like that which is brought on by “love at first site”, it will crumble due to a soft back bone. If it is created with no real connection, then that too will create a bond that is fickle, as seen in “The Story of an Hour”. Love does not tend on the ideals of marriage and love at first site, it tends on two people being able to grow together.

To conclude, when considering gender roles back in the 19th century to today it is a complete one-eighty. Women were regarded as the home keepers. They stayed home and took care of the family while the men worked. Today the sole bread winner of a family is often times the woman while the man stays home and cares for the family. The decline in extremist gender role behavior shows human societies growth overall. With that decline in gender role behavior there’s a big swing toward couples “cohabitating” together without the marriage bond. In today’s society that is completely fine and studies are popping up showing the benefits to marriage and cohabitation.

Here’s one such article here that expresses different views to each.

Sources cited:

Chopin, Kate. “”The Story of an Hour”” “The Story of an Hour” N.p., n.d. Web. 25 June 2014. <>.

Migdol, Erin. “Marriage Rate Declines To Historic Low, Study Finds.” The Huffington Post., 22 July 2013. Web. 20 May 2014. <>.

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