In “The Story of an Hour,” freedom and independence—not love, not friends, not family, not honor or glory or anything else—are held up as what make a life worth living. Though Louise is at first genuinely upset by the news of Brently’s death—and though she makes it clear that she will greatly mourn the loss of her husband—over the course of the hour in which she believes him to be dead, she comes to see the incredible gift she has been given in the form of the freedom she will have as an unmarried (and well-off) woman. She delights in the fact that without a husband she will be able to spend the remainder of her days exactly as she pleases. While Louise’s delight in her freedom is closely tied to her status as a woman in nineteenth-century American society, it is important to note that the story doesn’t limit its idea of the preeminent importance of independence only to women. As Louise herself thinks, “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.” In Louise’s conception, it is both women and men who lack freedom; it is both women and men who, in all their interactions with each other, steal freedom from each other.
Yet, just as the story indicates society and the world’s resistance to female empowerment, so does it imply the impossibility of actual human freedom or independence. It is no coincidence that Louise’s sense of the possibility of freedom only comes to her when she is locked, entirely alone, within her room. As her own thoughts about how men and women take each other’s freedom suggests, any social interaction or connection impinges upon freedom. And so it is further no coincidence that Louise’s dream of freedom, along with Louise herself, dies almost as soon as she leaves the solitary ecstasy of her room.
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Freedom and Independence Quotes in The Story of an Hour
She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.
She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.
It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.
There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully.
There would be no one to live for her 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. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.
What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!
She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister’s waist, and together they descended the stairs.