I am severely disappointed in my high school English teachers for not introducing me to Kate Chopin. Why did I have to read Great Expectations while others get to read this awesome short story and/or The Awakening? Not fair. I read this one in about 5 minutes but I easily could have written a lengthy essay about it in English class. Instead, I struggled to write about The Grapes of Wrath and was forced to make up lies about how my life compares to the lives of its characters. Ugh.
Anyway, The Story of an Hour is a (very) short story about a woman who finds out that her husband has died in a railroad accident. Her sister and friend are very gentle when they tell her, as they are worried (for good reason) that she will be devastated. And she is! Until she locks herself in a room and begins to feel something that is probably more common than we think - something most people would never admit to feeling. Freedom. She envisions her future and in it, she is independent, able to make choices that affect no one but herself.
I can certainly identify with these feelings. While I would never wish my boyfriend of nearly 10 years would die, and I would be absolutely beside myself with grief if he did, I understand that I would have a small sense of freedom and independence in the back of my mind. I've never been alone, never truly on my own, and I've often wondered what it would feel like. How my day-to-day decisions might change when I know my own happiness is all that matters. It's selfish, but it's also quite human, and I like that this is one classic in which I could actually find a bit of myself.
The end of the story is fantastic. I didn't expect it at all, though I suppose I should have. I'm not going to spoil it. The story is free to read on several websites (Google it) and is shorter than a standard news article. Take 5 minutes and read it for yourself.