Category: Book Report

The Image of Happiness

It is known that Kate Chopin, born in 1851 in America, was raised mostly by women, including her great-grandmother whose tales about the first French settlers in Missouri subsequently influenced the colorful description of Chopin's stories. Chopin is considered as one of the first feminist writers due to her heroines which are always women looking for happiness and deliverance from the power of men. The Story of an Hour is a recognized masterpiece of Chopin’s short stories that points to the complex mechanisms of the self-discoveries. The main character of the narrating is Mrs. Louise Mallard. Mr. Brently Mallard, her husband, is assumed dead until the end of the story when it is revealed that the news of his death was a mistake.

Analysis of the book reveals the individual, sometimes even unique views of the writer on the happiness. It also enables to compile the views and submit the concept sphere of the ‘happiness’ as a ‘field’. The core of such concept sphere resembles the generalized cognitive-propositional structure: the subject of happiness, happiness predicate, the source of happiness, external manifestation as a consequence of the happiness, and attribute characteristics of happiness.

Suddenly for the reader, a young woman, Louise Mallard, is represented as a subject of happiness. She became the widow due to the tragic death of her husband in a train crash. The position of the predicate of the happiness is realized by predicate words - the main carriers of the idea of happiness – ‘free’ and ‘joy’. The cause of happiness is the loss of a loved person - her husband. On the contrary to the stable representations, the source of happiness is negatively evaluated by emotions and events. Although the heroine barely keeps the tears at the sight of husband’s body, she realizes that the following years, belonging only to her, are the most valuable for Louise Mallard.

Chopin depicts dynamic manifestation of the happiness which consists of three phases: a misfortune, the understanding of the state and conditions, and the confidence in the feelings. From the first lines she portrays gentle treatment of Mrs. Mallard’s relatives and friends with heart disease. After the receiving the message about the tragedy, Louise behaves strange. After a storm of tears and sorrow, Louise retreats in the room. The writer focuses on the externality of the heroine, her eyes and face. The most amazing thing awaits the reader in the story within the behavior of Mrs. Mallard. Chopin thinly and distantly conveys her mood through the description of the nature.

Therefore, Mrs. Mallards’ realizes that after the first reaction of genuine grief a strange feeling comes which she cannot understand at first. Unexpectedly for herself, her mind creates a feeling of joy and happiness at the prospect of life free from someone else's dictates. An hour later, the husband returns home. He, as it turned out, was far from the crash site. Mrs. Mallard dies as ‘the joy that kills’. The last words in this context sound particularly ambiguous. Compositional contrast images, landscape sketches, logic artistic details, comparisons, and epithets are to open the main ideas of the author.

Thus, the image of happiness is very unusual in this book. According to Chopin, happiness is something elusive and subtle. It defies labeling and is manifested in the sounds, scents, colors, fills of the air. This phenomenon is able to master the man and he is hard to fight; it is a desired feeling, the elixir of life, a monstrous joy that can kill. The culmination of the story is the sudden return of the ‘dead’ husband. With his triumphant and victorious appearance Louise suddenly dies. In general, there is an ironic tone of the story, and then coupled with compassion, the cautious, optimistic, or anxious emotional triumph.

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