The Institute of Marriage: Then versus Now


ENGL 1020‑250


23 February 2004


Set in the late 1800's, "The Story of an Hour", by Kate Chopin, was written in a time when women in America were fighting for equality among men. The author tells a story that describes a seemingly tragic situation for a woman, however, the story concludes with an even more tragic ending. The main character is Mrs. Mallard and she is described as a visibly repressed young woman who suffers from heart disease. The story begins when Mrs. Mallard receives news from her sister that her husband was killed in a train accident. Mrs. Mallard reacts in an expected fashion with signs of grief and heart felt anguish over the loss of her husband. However, upon sitting alone in her room and gazing out of her window at the Spring setting outside, she begins to have feelings of joy and freedom because the ruling force in her life, her husband, is now gone. At her highest moment, she goes downstairs only to find her husband alive and walking through the door. This apparently comes as such a shock to her that her weak heart is unable to take it and she dies, seemingly as a result of her husband’s "resurrection". This story raised some interesting questions about marriage back then as opposed to marriage today. The institution of marriage was much different back then, in that, men were the ruling force in marriages, women did not have a voice, and women were expected to live solely for the men they were married to.


In times such as the one "The Story of an Hour" was set in, women were trapped by their husbands, and this can be reasonably concluded by anyone who reads this story. As the story progresses, the reader begins to see that Mrs. Mallard was more relieved than she was upset about the death of her husband. This was probably due to the fact that her husband had complete control over her, as was the case with most marriages back then. In those times, men had legal rights over their wives to the point where they could beat them if they saw fit to. Obviously, this is not the case today. Any man knows that he could go to jail for those types of actions in today’s world.


In the story, one can see that through the utterances of Mrs. Mallard, she felt as though she was free upon the death of her husband. She was free to speak. Her body and soul were now free. To the average reader, this attitude poses a question. What was so bad about Mrs. Mallard’s marriage? It seemed by her reaction to the death, that she never was able to say of do things that she wanted to while she was marred to her husband. This was true for women in the late 1800's because marred women had no rights back then. Again, this is not the case today. Women today have a very strong voice within society. They have the right to vote and the ability to do and say things as they please. Women are much more liberal today and are so without consequence.


Finally, in those times, women were expected to live solely for the men thy were marred to. This meant that women were to be completely subservient to their men. Whatever the man wanted, the woman was to make it so. Mrs. Mallard was apparently one of the many victims of her time. Once she heard the news of her husband’s death, she soon felt free, as stated before. She also felt that she now had many years to come that would belong to only her. She could now live life for herself and this turned her sorrow in to joy. In today’s world, when a woman loses a man as a result of death, nine times out of ten the reaction is complete sorrow. Sometimes there is that gross exception. However, today women have much more freedom in their relationships. They have the ability to take themselves out of the situation if they want to. Whether or not they do is a different story, unfortunately.


In conclusion, marriage today, as opposed to the late 1800's, has changed