When Mrs. Mallard hears of her husband’s death she surprisingly took the news well and went upstairs to mourn. She sits staring out the window first mourning the death of her husband, but then realizing she can now live a free life.
She is excited to start her new life as an independant. As many knew she had a weak heart, they were worried she could not handle shock. She survived the initial shock of learning her husband was dead, but what killed her was the shock of disappointment from learning that her husband had actually survived. Mrs. Mallard obviously cared for her husband (somewhat), but realized that love meant nothing if she could live as a strong independent woman. The story states, “And yet she had loved him–sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!”.
She would much rather choose life as a free woman over a life with a man she hardly loved. We know that Mrs. Mallard was looking forward to a life as an independent woman. She repeatedly whispers to herself, “Free! Body and soul free!”. The story also states Mallard is “drinking in a very elixir of life”, contradicting her sister telling her to leave the room because being alone is making herself more ill. This elixir represents the positive realizations that Mrs. Mallard is having while sitting by this open window. They assume that the reason for Mrs.
Mallard’s death was the sudden happiness and relief that overcame her when her husband walked through the door. The doctor and her family do not understand, or choose to ignore the idea, that her actual cause of death was disappointment. During that time, it was widely believed that women needed men to live happy lives. It was not commonly an option for women to choose to live independently. They believed that women without husbands had no one to live for, completely neglecting the idea that women could live for themselves.
Even if they did understand her real cause of death, it would not have been spoken out loud. In conclusion, the clear cause of Mrs. Mallard’s death was shock from sadness from learning her husband was still alive. She was sad at first, but decided to replace the depressing thoughts, with joyful thoughts she was having from realizing how great her life as a free woman could be.