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How do fear and foresight interplay when individuals make life-altering decisions? It is no secret that emotions play a large role in our decision-making process. Although people try to be as unbiased and objective as possible, emotions will always play a role to varying degrees based on the situation. It could be argued that one of the largest ways that emotions can affect our decision-making process is by skewing our perception and outlook of the future. While happiness may give us an optimistic view of the future and cause us to make decisions based on positive outcomes, sadness or fear may cause us to have a more pessimistic outlook and cause us to be more cautious in our evaluations of risks when making decisions.
In “The Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin, the author pits gender stereotypes against the desire of freedom and explores the conflict through the internal struggle of the main character in the story. While the main character, Ms. Mallard, is in what appears to be an unhappy marriage which affects her foresight and outlook on her life, the sudden death of her husband causes the new emotion of freedom to seep in causing an internal conflict as control and influence over her foresight begins to transitions from fear to the new emotion of freedom that comes from her husband’s death. Gender stereotypes in the context of the story
In the story, gender norms and expectations in the main character’s marriage act as the “emotion” or fear that initially affects the main character’s outlook on life. “And yet she loved him – sometimes. Often not.” Story possibly hints that the relationship was not the best and that there were possible problems with it. Although she may have loved him, the inclusion of the last word, “sometimes” and the following phrase, “Often not” makes the reader wonder what was wrong with their marriage and what caused Ms. Mallard to not love her husband. In addition to this, the idea that her life was being repressed or in a struggle is further supported by a quote later in the story where she says, “It was only yesterday that she thought with a shudder that life might be long.’ “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed gray and dead.”
Although at this point in the story the main character is beginning the transition from looking at the death of her husband to a new foresight on the future, it is important to note how she still cares about her husband as evidenced by the phrase, “she knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind tender hands folded in death;…” the quote also mentions how Mr. Mallard was generally a kind character as evidenced by the phrase, “… the face that had never looked save with love upon her,…”. This removes the notion that she had a problem with Mr. Mallard himself. Possibly more so with the marriage, how it was structured and enforced by gender stereotypes at the time. These stereotypes that the story references are that marriage should be a male dominated relationship and the idea that wives should be submissive to their husbands. “There would be no powerful will bending hers in a blind persistence with which men and women believe that they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.” Comment about gender stereotypes that were held at the time. The idea of imposing a will upon another reflects the gender stereotype at the time that the man was dominant over the woman and that wives should be submissive to their husband’s will. As shown by the evidence above, Ms. Mallard appeared to have a problem with the relationship and how it restricted her, “bending her will” in ways that she did not want it to. The societal gender norms and restrictiveness of the relationship could act as the influence of fear and emotion that affects her foresight on life and subsequently affected her decision-making process.
From the beginning of the story, the author begins to sneak in the idea of freedom. Throughout the short story, the author subtly grows and increase it’s influence until it becomes a full internal conflict in the main character. “There she stood facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair.” Use of archetypes to represent freedom present in the quote. The idea of an open window is commonly used to represent freedom and the outside world. The window is later alluded to as a source of freedom in the quote, “No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.” The “roomy” armchair, as opposed to a “small” or “constricting” armchair, could also serve as another representation of freedom or room to breathe now that her husband is gone. “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 literature, the season of spring commonly represents new beginnings. In the context of the story, as the main character notices these details, this could foreshadow to the reader a new beginning that arises with the death of the main character’s husband, Mr. Mallard. “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.”
This line is important at exploring the conflict and struggle between the two emotions prior to the death of Mr. Mallard. The “certain strength” mentioned in the last part of the quote in context to the story could be interpreted to mean her sense or want for freedom. In conjunction with this, the “repression” mentioned earlier in the quote could allude to the restrictions and confines that the main character experiences from her marriage. As a result of this, the “certain strength” becomes repressed by this. It could be possible that the death and absence of fear did not create this emotion of freedom so much as freeing and unleashing what was already inside of her. From the evidence above, we can see that the author is beginning to hint at something that may challenge the restrictiveness and fear posed by gender norms. In relation to the prompt, it could be said that with the absence of fear and a new emotion to replace it, her foresight has now shifted and will possibly cause her to reevaluate her decision-making process and how she makes life-altering decisions going into the future.
As the transition between fear and freedom occurs in the main character, we can see how this has a profound effect on the main character as she comes to realize the ramifications of this discovery and foresight. “When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: ‘free, free, free!’ ” This is an important turning point in the story. During this time, as fear and the hold of marriage leaves her, the new emotion of freedom comes in. This appears to take her over mentally as she begins to say the words, “free, free, free!” This begins the build up to the climax of the conflict that causes her character and foresight to shift dramatically. “What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!” With fear gone, we can see how her foresight changes. She transitions from a grieving person to a suddenly joyful and self-determined person as the confines and fears brought by gender norms and her marriage are now gone. This quickly becomes the new defining characteristic of Ms. Mallardher character undergoes a transformation as a result of this internal conflict. This is proven in the last section of the quote where she links self-assertion as the strongest impulse in her being.
“Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long.” At this point in the story, the main character has fully embraced this new foresight brought on by the emotion of freedom. We can see how her character changes dramatically as she goes from being a grieving and almost “weak-willed” wife to a strong and determined character who embraces the future. This is evidenced in the sentence, “Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own.” This is phrase is important because calling those days her own emphasize the point already made of her newfound self-determination and assertion mentioned before.
The repetition serves to make this idea very clear in both her mind as well as the readers. As a result of this transition between fear and freedom, it could be said that her foresight has changed dramatically. With the absence of fear in her foresight and outlook on her life, she sees the future in a completely different manner. She begins to happily rejoyce where moments ago she looked at her life in a bleak manner. To that extent, it could be said that fear plays a large role in affecting our foresight in the future. In regards to decision making, the new way that she sees her life and cherishes these newfound aspects of freedom and self-determination could be said to have largely influenced her decision-making process for both small and large, life-changing decisions. While before she seemed unhappy and hoped that her sad life would not last any longer than it did, this new perspective causes her to pray for a longer life.
Overall, these shift in values could be said to have profoundly affected the main character’s decision-making process in regards to how she values her life and what she chooses to do with to going forward.
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