Jasmine mainly desires to live a life free from the will of others—to “live for herself.” Her brief liberation comes from the news that her husband had died that morning in a train crash. From that moment onwards, the story revolves entirely around the idea of freedom, including several metaphors and visual images depicting free will, eventually culminating in the protagonist’s ultimate freedom–death. However, the idea of freedom cannot form without having experienced bondage in some form. I argue that the focus of this work lies in its theme and symbolizations of both liberty and subjection. The symbols of the open window, the front door of the house, and Jasmine’s fatal heart attack all represent transitions toward freedom, whereas Jasmine’s husband and locked room signify the servitude she experiences.
Foremost, the open window appears as the first and most obvious symbols of freedom. Through the window, Jasmine sees the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life and hears the notes of a distant song. The window provides a sense of hope and new life which Jasmine greatly anticipates. It offers a glimpse into her possible future, bringing hope and anticipation, but also condemning Jasmine to the surprised heart attack she will experience when her husband comes home. The importance of the window becomes understood when one considers the scene without it—a dark room with no place for introspection and no obvious connection to the outside world—in other words, a prison. As a symbol, the window demonstrates the narrative focus on the theme of freedom in the story, providing the perspective of independence to an otherwise empty scene.
Next, the front door of the house in tandem with Jasmine’s death forms an interesting symbolic relationship. If the window gives a glimpse into the free outside world, then the front door acts as the means to redeem this offer of freedom. Unfortunately, Jasmine never receives an opportunity to leave the house of her own accord prior to her death; she does not exercise her new privileges and thus they essentially become worthless. At the moment when Jasmine’s presumably dead husband enters through the front door, she suffers a lethal heart disease of joy that kills. Jasmine never truly becomes free in the way she desired to. Rather, death, in several ways, represents a morbid sort of liberty from the corporeal and all its woes; if one dies, what does one have to worry about? Thus, the front door ended up fulfilled its duty as a gate to freedom, though the manifestation of the freedom itself changed. In short, the door leads to Louise’s death, granting her freedom, although not the freedom she intended. This intricate intertwining of symbols underscores the importance of the theme of liberty to the plot of the story.
On the other hand, manifestations of imprisonment and servitude contrast the symbols of freedom. First, Jasmine’s husband overarches the whole narrative and provides Louise with the impetus to desire freedom. Several narrative examples point to his overbearing and controlling nature toward women. Although broadly philosophical of civilization as a whole at the time, within the context of the story this quote paints her husband as insensitive and controlling, making him a figure of her entrapment. Jasmine’s musings about a future without her husband makes his death a symbol of freedom. Prior to moving downstairs for the climax of the story, Jasmine prays hoping that life will be long. She remembers only yesterday she dreaded the thought of a long life. As of this moment, she accepts a reality where she became free. Consequently, the appearance of her unharmed husband after her grandiose daydreams of autonomy render Jasmine stricken dead, freeing her from her daily woes and her fantasies. Thus, Mr. Mallard comes to serve as both a symbol of overbearing servitude as well as liberation, though the latter did not occur as any character within the story intended.
Lastly, the parts of the house portrayed in the story have important symbolic value, particularly Jasmine’s room. Upon hearing of her husband’s supposed death, Jasmine immediately went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her. This room comes to symbolize her inner thoughts and physically acts as a sanctum for her daydreams of independence. Jasmine refuses to let anyone in, keeping them in the dark about her ambitions to live an independent, meaningful life. She shoos away Josephine, who mistakenly believes Jasmine will make herself sick. Jasmine even explicitly mentions the concept of self-assertion as the strongest impulse of her being while locked away in her room. By performing these actions, Jasmine signifies the gravity of her desire for freedom, making it apparent to the reader that this theme permeates and composes the entirety of the short story.
The importance and impact of these five symbols, each relating in some way to the idea of freedom, prove that this same theme forms a focal point for the whole work. The open window, the front door, and the heart attack each represent a transition toward freedom in some form or another, whereas Brently Mallard and the locked room characterize the entanglement and oppression experienced by Jasmine. The combination of both of these sets of symbols, each of which contributes in a major way to the advancement of the plot, irrevocably demonstrates the pivotal nature of the theme of freedom within the story that is, the story cannot exist in the same way independent of it.