Theme of Independence
The story celebrates the idea and desire for independence and freedom. Louise is a caring wife and sister. She has a loving family with a husband and sister who care for her.
Freedom is valued even greater than family, love, and togetherness. It also highlights the importance of individualism over interdependence between individuals.
There is a condemnation of the institution of marriage as some sort of prison and an allusion to a better life without such a bond. The writer points at Louise’s happiness at being free from the confines of her marriage in contrast to the grief of becoming a widow.
Theme of Death
Death is the central theme of the story. The story begins with the news of the death of Brently and ends with the death of his wife Louise. In the initial phase, every character seems to be worried about Louise’s heart issue, another allusion to death and mortality.
All the events are actions that take place around the theme of death, be it consolation of the family or encouragement to look for hope. The story also points at the sheer fragility of life and how quickly death can strike.
Louise, after having recovered from his husband’s death, learns that he was not dead after all. At the very instant she hears and sees him alive she falls to her own demise.
Theme of Marriage
Marriage is condemned as an instrument of oppression to cage women inside households in the story. It is regarded as an antiquated tradition that has lost value in the light of modern and individualistic lifestyle.
Through Louise, there is a strong criticism of the old custom of bringing two people in a relationship as opposed to allowing them to just stay alone and impose their will without constraints.
There is a clear suggestion that independence is more valuable than interdependence. Interestingly, there is no point in the story where Louise does not depend either on her sister Josephine, Richards or even her husband Brently for support, information or care.
The writer celebrates the pleasures of selfish indulgences over togetherness and dependence in a strong marital bond. The fact that the Mallards have a shared history seems to be overshadowed by the ideas of the self and individualism.
Theme of Oppression
The writer has an interesting take on the institution of marriage which can be traced to a second wave feministic ideology. Caring and building a family together is considered an exercise in control and domination.
The writer suggests that Louise and Brently, both would be better off as single and lonely rather than in a warm and caring relationship. Interestingly, the write never suggests that Josephine and Richards are also suffocating the same freedom by actually staying with Louise when she clearly has no thought or concern about their efforts to comfort her.
Homemaking and raising a family is considered to be a waste of potential with respect to getting a job and spending money on base desires. This is signified by Louise’s sense of freedom when she learns about her husband’s death.
Even though marriage is portrayed as a device of control and cruelty, it is selfish individualism which shows in the sheer apathy of Louise’s thoughts.