In our Literature, in order to practice for the IGCSE exam that we are having this year, our teacher asked us to write an Unseen Paper. This is mine:
The extract from a short story narrates how Mrs Mallard reacts to finding out that her husband has just died which is very unexpected and surprising. Her attitude is very shocking which makes the story startling and alarming.
At first, her response to hearing what had occurred seemed normal, how every other wife would react. She sobbed desperately in her sister’s arms giving the impression that she felt abandoned, alone and torn apart. But what was different from any other woman, was that she started crying right away, she didn’t refuse to believe the fact that she was now a widow like a lot of other people would. When there were no more tears left to shed, she went alone to her room, which can be a common attitude depending on the person. Many people like being left alone while going through a rough time while others prefer being surrounded by loved ones.
Although her behaviour was pretty ordinary, once she’s alone in her room, there was a twist. She started feeling this emotion growing inside of her which was frightening. Mrs Mallard tried to fight it back but it outgrew her. When this happened, a word escaped her mouth several times: “‘free, free, free!’”, which she could not figure out if it was joy overwhelming her or what. But as some minutes went by, as she imagined her husband’s dead body and the years to come, she realized that it was in fact, delight and happiness. Completely opposite and opposite feelings to the ones she had had before, when she had just heard the news. This can be seen when it is depicted that “she breathed a quick prayer that life might be long”, which means that she asked God for the remaining time of her existence to be enduring. She also reflects about how now, she wants to live a long time while when she was married, she feared living a long time. The word “free” is a metaphor that conveys that she is finally liberated from her prison, her marriage.
Finally, the ending has an even bigger turnabout. When she was descending the stairs, two things happened. Her husband appeared because apparently, the accident was all made up, he hadn’t actually been involved in a car crash; and since she suffered from a problem in her heart, she passed away and her death was caused by “a heart disease – of joy that kills”, which is ironic because she didn’t actually die of happiness, she died of horror when she saw him; which is dramatic irony as we, the readers, know that she was not happy to see her husband, but the other characters don’t.
In conclusion, the fragment of the story is very shocking and astonishing since the description of Mrs Mallard’s reaction and the way in which she comes to understand her feelings, are both very interesting.