The imagery in “The Story of an Hour,” by Kate Chopin, illustrates freedom and repression. Believing herself newly widowed, Louise Mallard reflects on the institution of marriage and what it means to be free for the first time in her life before dying from shock when her husband returns alive.
As “The Story of an Hour” opens, readers learn that Louise Mallard has always had heart trouble, a central image in the story. However, when she learns that her husband has been listed as killed in a railway accident, she feels stronger rather than weaker. As she sits in her comfortable chair, gazing out her window, dark clouds part to show blue sky, and the promise of rain also brings the “new spring life” that she sees in the trees. Sparrows sing, and life in renewal goes on around her. Sounds and colors reach out to her as she exclaims, "Free! Body and soul free!"
As she reflects on her marriage, Louise admits that she has mixed feelings about the death of her husband. While they did not have a bad marriage, Louise felt trapped by the institution of marriage. Free now to live life for herself, she can see past the dark days of oppression and possibly the end of her heart trouble. However, when her husband shows up, Louise dies from shock.