Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is a story about heartache and hope. This story has many symbols, but none so prevalent as the symbol of nature.
Chopin uses an open window as a portal through which nature, and therefore hope and joy, can enter Mrs. Mallard’s life. The change in the weather outside that window throughout the story symbolizes the change in Mrs. Mallard’s outlook after her husband’s death. When Mrs. Mallard heard of her husband’s death, she retired to a room on the second floor of the house and sat in a chair facing an open window.
She was extremely upset by her husband’s passing that she was reduced to tears. When Mrs. Mallard was sobbing over the loss of her husband, a storm was approaching. Chopin (1894/2007) mentioned that the “delicious breath of rain was in the air” (250). This melancholy, however, was about to transform itself. The weather outside Mrs. Mallard’s window began to change, and with it, her outlook on life began to change. It was said that Mrs.
Mallard was waiting for something. She did not know what it was, but she could feel it coming out of the sky. Patches of blue sky showed through the clouds, symbolizing a light at the end of the tunnel for Mrs. Mallard. Mrs. Mallard suddenly realized that what was coming to her was freedom. Mrs.
Mallard loved her husband, but she felt trapped in her marriage. Immediately after she heard the news about her husband’s death, her first instinct was to cry. However, after she came to terms with the news she was given, she realized that the situation she found herself in did not have to be an ending. Mrs. Mallard decided to look at it as a beginning.
While sitting in the chair, looking out the window, she saw beautiful spring and summer days, days that would be hers to do with what she pleased. Mrs. Mallard’s sister then arrives at the door, where she insists that Mrs. Mallard goes back downstairs. When Mrs. Mallard returns downstairs and sees her husband walk through the front door, alive and well, Mrs. Mallard falls dead. She so looked forward to a life of freedom that the shock, and perhaps even disappointment, from seeing her husband alive was too much for her heart to take.
The weather symbolized Mrs. Mallard’s internal feelings, and changed when her feelings did. When Mrs.
Mallard first sat in front of the open window, she was visibly upset. When she realized that her husband’s death meant freedom, her disposition got brighter, and so did the weather. A person’s thoughts and feelings change constantly, like the weather.- Chopin, Kate. (1894/2007). The Story of an Hour. In ed.
Ann Charters, The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. 7th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 250-252.