What kind of relationships do the Mallards have? Is Brently Mallard unkind to Louise Mallard, or is there some other reason for her saying “free, free, free!” when she hears of his death? How does she feel about him?
The kind of relationship that Mr and Mrs Mallards have is ordinary. There is some love but no signs of romance in their marital relationship. The husband and wife are not indispensable for each other but have only learnt to depend upon each other with time. Mrs Mallard does not hate her husband but in their relationship it seems there is very limited love and trust between the two. As a wife she had never felt complete. There were stronger impulses inside her heart than love which she felt rising to hear of his death.
And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! 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! “Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering
As a wife, her live, love and every breath were tied to her husband. She never had an independent existence. She does not feel any intense love for her husband except that the two have depended on each other in their relationship. It also signifies that Mr Mallard has not been a bad husband if not a very good one. Their relationship is ordinary in every manner and the news of her husband’s death at first leaves Mrs Mallard feeling indecisive. She wails but soon she realizes that her husband has also been like a knot tied around her soul keeping her from feeling free. She has been leading the life of a secondary being and now it was time to emerge from the secondary existence. She says “free, free, free” which signifies her dissatisfaction at the ordinariness of their relationship which was suffocating her. The amount of love and liberty she must have expected was not there in their marital relationship. She has been freed from a burden. If there is not love and space in a relationship, its being or not being does not really matter. This is how she feels about her husband’s death. She cares for him but not as much as she cares for herself. Now that the husband is dead and the relationship over, she would be able to live for herself.
Mrs. Mallard closes the door to her room so that her sister Josephine cannot get in, yet she leaves the window open. Why does Chopin make a point of telling the reader this? How might this relate to the idea of being “free” and to the implicit idea that she is somehow imprisoned? Do other words in the story relate to this idea?
Chopin makes a point of telling that Mrs Mallard has closed her room to people but lets her window remain open so fresh air and light can come to her life. She has always wanted freedom and solace from the bound life she has been leading. Freedom from the obligation of being a wife and a secondary being to her husband, marks a new chapter in Mrs Mallard’ life.
The implicit idea that she has somehow been living an imprisoned life is reflected at several points throughout the story. The entire story takes place within the confines of a house – a room, a staircase and just come extra space. It looks like for the first time she has enjoyed some free air that flows through her window. She has been sick of being a wife and so all the things appear new to her from the fresh monsoon wind to the twittering of the sparrows. Her senses are feeling relieved and she is rejoicing at the idea of enjoying the rest seasons of her life in freedom.
Chopin’s idea is to present how Mrs Mallard is trying to keep her hard won prize from others. She is sitting inside a closed room with the window open so she can secretly enjoy her new found freedom without others finding out.
“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!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.”
She whispered the word free thrice which meant that she had been newly released from captivity and a major weight was lifted off her soul. She could feel a new warmth and strength. The way her eyes shone with a new light meant that her soul had been held prisoner inside her body till now.
What does Josephine represent in the story? What does Richards represent?
Josephine and Richard are both representations of a society that exists around Mrs Mallard and its traditional mind set. They are the people that are there to help Mrs Mallard bear the shock of her husband’s death. The presence of these two characters in the story makes the intentional pun sharper. Josephine is an ironic character who is trying to console her sister. She believes Mrs Mallard is deeply shocked and tries to console and support her. However, she appears a woman whose blindly follows social customs and therefore does everything in a customary manner. Mrs Mallard shuts her out for she is annoyed at the way her sister is trying to support her. Josephine’s appearance in the story is comical. On the one hand, her sister is rejoicing at her new found freedom, on the other she is comically trying to console her as if Mrs Mallard will die of sorrow. She is doing it all because it is customary for the kin of a widow to support her at her husband’s death. Richards also has a comical presence in the story. Both Josephine and Richards are following the customs of their society. Richards slowly reveals the news of her husband’s death to Mrs Mallard so as not to shock her. Again at the end, he motions to Mr Mallard to hide himself from his wife’s view but it is too late by then. He is in the story to help Mrs Mallard transition to widowhood. He is also a representation of the comical male mindset. Neither Richards and nor Josephine understand Mrs Mallard or her state of mind. So, they act like cartoons to add to the poor creature’s sorrow which kills her.