The story is a different look at gender then what we are used to in these stories. There seems to be a usual set of hegemonic difference between the man and the woman, but here the man seems to be presented as quite benevolent and very much a loving husband. Yet, for some reason, the woman still finds herself immensely relieved and overcome with feelings of liberation upon the news of her husband’s death. It is difficult to determine if this is a commentary on the nature of marriage, on gender, or on just a particular case of an independently minded person.
I have wondered what would be different about the life of a woman who lost a loving husband, and this story did not match my initial musings. It seems natural for a woman, or a man for this instance, to be happy or overcome with feelings of freedom when a tyrannical or evil spouse is struck dead from calamity. But surprisingly, Mrs. Mallard reacts in a way that is most unexpected. She seems to have a sort of existential epiphany when she realized her “possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” (p. 58).
Ultimately, I find the story to be a commentary on a particular person who was stuck in a marriage she did not enjoy, as opposed to marriage or gender alone. Perhaps further, it is a comment on marriage based on convenience or social habit, not love. It takes two to tango, and Mrs. Mallard apparently never felt like dancing at all.