The conflict in “The Story of an Hour” can be read in the traditional way as woman in conflict with herself, but the internal emotional turmoil that Mrs. Mallard feels is not really stimulated by her own psyche, but rather society’s impact upon that psyche. The conflict at the heart of this story puts Mrs. Mallard’s longing for independence and rebellion against society’s expectations and conventions of a woman’s place in it. By contrast, “How I Met My Husband” contains many more characters who come into physical conflict with Edie and so it might seem as though this is a case of woman-versus-others type of conflict when in actuality it is a far more authentic example of a woman in conflict with herself; specifically Edie’s road to maturation in conflict with her own innocence and lack of worldliness.
Mrs. Mallard may equate the death of her husband as the specific link to resolving her conflict, but she is clearly pursuing something more far-reaching when she thinks to herself that his death means “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” (Chopin, 645). In that moment, she recognizes that all involved in such submission—men and woman alike—share equally in this sociological conflict.
Just like the alert reader can recognize the epicenter of the conflict within Edie in the moment she recalls that she “wasn’t even old enough then to realize how out of the common it is, for a man to say something like that to a woman, or somebody he is treating like a woman.”(Munro, 51). The antagonist in Edie’s world of transformation from untried teen to wistful adult looking back on her life is not her imagined rival Alice, the intrusive Mrs. Peebles nor even that bounder Chris. The title may indicate that the story is going to be a romance, but just as the story of Mr. Mallard’s supposed death and Mrs. Mallard’s actual death that takes places in an hour is really about a lifetime of suffering, Edie’s recollection isn’t really about meeting her husband so much as it is about meeting grown-up self.
- Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter, et al. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Lexington: Heath, 1994. 644-46.
- Munro, Alice, Something I’ve Been Meaning To Tell you, New York, 1974