Louise Mallard, in hearing the news of her husband s tragic death then subsequent revelation of its fallacy, finds herself quickly moving from grief, through a sense of newfound freedom, and finally into the despair of the loss of that freedom. After learning of her husband s death in a railroad disaster, Mrs. Mallard sinks into a deep state of grief, as one would be expected to do upon receiving such news. She weeps uncontrollably until she can weep no more. Finally, she seeks refuge alone in her room, accepting comfort from no one. Physically and emotionally drained, Mrs. Mallard sits in a chair in front of an open window.
Through that window begins a realization that haunts her as it creeps into her consciousness, and moves her toward a new unknown. As the sights and sounds of spring reveal themselves through the window, Mrs. Mallard tastes new life for the first time. Even though she loved her husband and will weep for him again, one thought comes to her over and over again: free, free, free!. Mrs. Mallard realizes at that instant that her life from now on is her own to live as she chooses; no more will she have to succumb to the needs and wishes of her husband.
Her body betrays her excitement for the thought of this new life; her pulse races and her chest repeatedly rises and sinks with fervor, as she recognizes this thing that was approaching to possess her. At this moment a change takes place, for with this freedom Mrs. Mallard ceases to exist and Louise emerges. She has found a new desire for life, which she now hopes will be long. Louise returns to the friends and family who had so recently brought the news which began her metamorphosis.
It is then that the door opens and Louise s husband enters their home, completely unaware of the train accident or the indication that he had been involved. With Brently Mallard s return her new life, her freedom, is lost to her in an instant, taken even quicker than it had been discovered. How can she return to the suppression which had been such an integral part of her marriage? Where will she find the resolve to return to the way of thinking that was such a part of her being at the start of day? This loss is much too great to bear.
Louise learns in a brief hour what it is like to be her own person, to live for herself without the constraints of another s will. She likes the way it feels and envisions great expectations of a future as her own woman. When her husband returns, as he had every day, her dream is shattered. She can never again be the woman he had married. It is better to not live at all than to go on as she realizes she had been living. Her weak heart simply stops beating; Louise is dead in an instant. The doctors say she had died of heart disease — of joy that kills. As she slips into death, Louise once again is free.