More on The Story of an Hour
Introduction see all, summary see all.
- The Story of an Hour
Themes See All
- Language and Communication
- Freedom and Confinement
Characters See All
- Mrs. Louise Mallard
- Mr. Brently Mallard
Analysis See All
What's Up With the Title?
- What's Up With the Ending?
- Writing Style
- Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
- Narrator Point of View
- Plot Analysis
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Surprise! This title refers to the story's duration (an hour) and its actual form (a story). Let's talk about duration first. Obviously, anyone who sits down to read this is going to finish a lot sooner than someone who sits down to read a full-length novel, like Chopin's The Awakening . Short stories are generally smaller in scope than novels, so it works well for the subject of "The Story of an Hour" to be limited to events that can happen in only an hour's time. We can read about the things that happen to Mrs. Mallard in just about the same amount of time that it takes for them to happen, which is pretty cool. This lends the whole thing a sense of immediacy – in other words, a feeling that things are happening to Mrs. Mallard right as we read them.
An hour doesn't seem like a lot of time – it's barely an episode of The Vampire Diaries . As soon as it starts, it seems like it's over. An hour, though, can seem like it goes on forever if you're doing something difficult or uncomfortable – like go to the dentist, sit in detention, or if you're on a road trip and desperately looking for a decent public restroom. In Mrs. Mallard's case, processing the tragic news of her husband's death and what it means for the shape of her life makes that hour slow way down and stand still. It may not seem like it takes very long, but a lot of stuff happens to Mrs. Mallard during that hour.
And what about the "story" part? This literary work is both a story and a "story"; it's a story Kate Chopin wrote and a "story" Mrs. Mallard lives. In the title, "story" both describes the form of the tale that Chopin is telling about Mrs. Mallard, as well as the "story" Mrs. Mallard tells herself about the potential her life can hold, once her husband has died.
Yet this title is not exactly what Kate Chopin named this work when she first published it. She originally called this tale "The Dream of an Hour" ( source ). In this more original version of the title, the idea of emphasizing the duration of the tale still applies. But the more self-referential aspects of the "story" aren't there. Instead, Chopin refers to Mrs. Mallard's experience during the fateful hour as a "dream."
The use of "dream" instead of "story" makes Mrs. Mallard's thoughts during that hour seem even more fanciful and less realistic. It seems like Mrs. Mallard, in thinking them, has less control than she would if she was authoring them as part of a "story." A dream is more ephemeral than a story – you can't hold on to it, you can't reread it like you would a book or retell it with as much recall. A dream escapes. And that's what happens to Mrs. Mallard's briefly imagined ideas of her future by the last line.
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The Story of an Hour: Summary and Analysis
July 24, 2023
Students who read this “ The Story of an Hour ” summary will gain a comprehensive understanding of a classic American text. In this article we’ll cover symbols and motifs, as well as several other significant literary devices. We’ll also revisit Kate Chopin’s past, and consider how a 19th century woman wrote relevant yet timeless works of fiction. Before reading on, make sure you’ve familiarized yourself with The Story of an Hour. (As the title suggests, it shouldn’t take more than an hour.)
“The Story of an Hour” Summary: The Author
Kate Chopin, born Katherine O’Flaherty in 1850 in St. Louis, Missouri, became renowned as a Southern writer of short stories and novels. Yet she didn’t set out to write. Rather, the nuns who instructed her at the Sacred Heart Academy prepared her for the life of a well-to-do wife. She learned to conduct herself in matters of finance and household expenses. She consumed books of poetry, allegories, fairy tales, and novels. With the help of her great-grandmother, she also learned French, music, and history. Another teacher, Mary O’Meara, played a significant role by encouraging and forming Chopin’s talent in writing.
At the age of 20, she married Oscar Chopin, a cotton broker, and moved to New Orleans. Over the next eight years, she gave birth to six children and moved again, to Natchitoches, Louisiana. Only after her husband’s death in 1882, and her mother’s death three years later, did Kate Chopin start writing for an audience. Initially she wrote for therapeutic reasons, to combat depression born from loss and monetary struggles. (Her husband’s failed business left her with a debt of what would amount to 1.27 million dollars today.) By 1894, she’d published a number of short stories in newspapers and magazines, including “The Story of an Hour.”
Kate Chopin’s Works and Reception
Chopin’s stories showcased Louisiana culture and creole heritage. She set many stories in her own city of Natchitoches. Readers knew her as a Southern writer, writing with a particular geographical flavor. In fact, Chopin’s work, though regional, often attempted to go beyond identifiers of gender, class, and race. She wanted to change opinions on such matters by dropping characters into situations that would dissolve or muddle accepted conventions. In her story “Desiree’s Baby,” Chopin tackles a controversial topic of the time: miscegenation, or the state of being mixed-race. Her white character Armand must confront his own racism when he discovers he has black ancestry.
“The Story of an Hour” Summary (Continued)
As for the quality of her writing, critics did not remark so much on her literary finesse. Yet they condemned certain stories, as well as her most famous novel from 1899, The Awakening , as having immoral content. They found that Chopin’s depictions of female repression, troubled marriages, sexual constraints, and motherhood challenged prevailing opinions on a women’s place in society. Readers of “The Yellow Wallpaper” will remember how laws and codes prevented women from obtaining the same freedoms as men. We’ll see in the coming “The Story of an Hour” analysis how marriage acted as another institution to constrain women.
“The Story of an Hour” Summary
So what happens in “The Story of an Hour”? We can summarize this short story as the following. A woman with a heart condition learns of her husband’s death from her sister and husband’s friend. The woman retreats to her room. She sits facing an open window, as unknown feelings overwhelm her. After some minutes, she feels something beyond sorrow for her husband: an elated sense of freedom. She realizes that the rest of the years of her life will belong to her, and her alone.
She gets up and goes to her sister, who’s been calling through the door, attempting to check on her. Together they descend the stairs. Meanwhile, down below, the front door opens and the husband appears in the doorway, alive. The sister shrieks, and the friend attempts to shield the sight of the husband from the wife. Too late—the wife dies. According to the doctors who arrive shortly after, her death was brought on by excessive joy.
“The Story of an Hour” Summary: Characters
Four main characters populate “The Story of an Hour.” The first sentence introduces us to our protagonist, Mrs. Louise Mallard, who learns of her husband’s death. Thus, the husband, Mr. Brently Mallard, emerges as a second, offstage character. Josephine, Louise’s sister, and Richards, Brently’s friend, comprise the other characters. Josephine appears as a doting and considerate sister. She worries about her sister’s health in response to the news. When the sisters appear at the top of the stairs near the end, Louise is clasping her sister’s waist. This gesture implies an intimacy between them. And yet this intimacy does not extend to the Mallard’s marriage, which has a stronger hold over Louise than her sister. Josephine can only see her sister’s true feelings through a “keyhole.” She mistakes Louise’s emancipation for grief.
Richards appears just as considerate as Josephine, as well as logical and efficient in delivering the news of Brently’s death. Perhaps he works for the press, for he hears of his friend’s death in a newspaper office. Richards acts decisively at the end, too, attempting to shield Louise from something that will make her heart race. The doctors who arrive, while inconsequential as characters, prove to have more agency than Louise. They (falsely) write the end of her story in her place. Finally, offstage characters appear in “the list of ‘killed’” men, women, and children on the wrecked train. These characters play no part in the unfolding domestic scene. However, they serve as a reminder of the world the characters inhabit. Though women faced many ordeals in 19th century America, daily life exposed everyone to brutal risks and realities.
Characters in Depth: The Married Couple
Mrs. Mallard initially seems like a delicate, vulnerable character, due to her “heart trouble.” This nebulous affliction may give readers some doubt about her health. While the immediate mention of her heart may appear as a red flag, it could also act as a false alarm. Readers familiar with the 19th century will know that doctors at the time often misdiagnosed women. Fainting from wearing a tightly-tied corset, for example, could lead to a diagnosis of “nerves” and a month of bedrest.
The reader can deduce little about Brently. Everything we know of him comes through the siphon of his wife. As Louise digests the news of his death, she thinks about how “she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not.” He does not appear in her eyes as a cruel man. And yet, Brently had what his wife calls a “powerful will.” He used this force of character over her, “bending hers” in “blind persistence.” Brently imposed his views, rules, and desires on his wife, simply because he believed she belonged to him. (While various states had begun enacting Married Women’s Property Acts , men still considered a marriage contract akin to a property deed. The property, in this case, was the wife herself.)
As Brently’s persona takes shape in Louise’s mind, so too does her character sharpen in the reader’s mind. Beneath her sickly appearance, we find compassion and a ferocious desire to live freely. Louise’s immediate tears for her husband and lack of calculation in wishing to be free of him reveal her kindness. Yet her joy at finding herself emancipated reveals an independence and strength of character.
“The Story of an Hour” Summary: Symbols and Motifs
A major symbol emerges in the form of Louise’s heart. While a heart traditionally represents love, Louise’s heart complicates this tradition. The “trouble” with her heart implies that trouble exists in her relationship. Though Brently “had never looked save with love upon her,” his feelings were only partly reciprocated. Louise’s love for her husband fluctuates—how could she fully love a man who expected her to behave like property? A closer look at the heart also sheds light on the motif of indoor/outdoor spaces. Just as Louise remains inside, with no freedom to move about independently, her heart resides within herself. No one can see its true feelings. Her feelings remain unknown, deemed irrelevant to her role of dutiful wife.
Other symbols support this indoor/outdoor motif. An open window in Louise’s room provides a passage between the two. Yet Louise cannot cross this boundary, she can only look out. (This window is already open when Louise returns to her room, implying that she contemplates this off-limits space frequently.) The square is also “open” and filled with noises: a peddler hawking goods, a neighbor singing, and chirping birds. The outside is full of life, as well as spring weather, which represents rebirth and new possibilities. Finally, the symbols of keys cement the indoor/outdoor motif. Josephine attempts to reach Louise by calling through a keyhole, yet marriage has created a wall between the sisters. It is Brently who possesses a latchkey, as seen at the end of the story. This key empowers him to move freely between indoor and outdoor spaces.
What’s in a Name?
Finally, we find another symbol in the “Mallard” surname. A mallard is a wild duck, from which comes the domesticated species. In marrying a Mallard, Louise has taken on a domesticated role, yet she seems to wish for a wilder existence. Male mallards have showy, iridescent colors. It doesn’t take much imagination to anthropomorphize the male mallard. It seems to be wearing a white collar, green hat, and brown suit. As for its more subdued partner, the female mallard has a plain, speckled brown plumage.
Finally, the mallard symbol adds to another subtler motif, this time of flight. As Louise watches the clouds, she realizes that Brently’s death will allow her to fly free of her subordinate position. The feeling that overwhelms her seems to come “creeping out of the sky.” And finally, when she emerges from her room, she “carried herself like a goddess of Victory.” Artists often depict this goddess with wings.
“The Story of an Hour” Summary: More Literary Devices
While examining the text for clues, we should mention several other literary devices that shape our analysis. For example, while symbolizing troubled love, Louise’s weak heart also foreshadows her sudden death. As it turns out, Josephine and Richards were right to worry. Another literary device, allusion, occurs when Chopin compares Louise to the goddess of Victory. In Greek mythology, this goddess, also called Nike, represents triumph. This allusion would have worked particularly well in Chopin’s day, when Greek and Roman Classics were widely studied. Chopin would have seen representations of Nike looking valiant in books, museums, and reproductions.
Finally, Chopin’s subtle and suggestive prose style could be considered another literary device. Her sentences, seemingly simple, discreet, and demure, act as a reflection of Louise’s multilayered personality. Through the writing itself, the reader can enter into her thoughts, and access a complex layering of ideas and emotions.
“The Story of an Hour” Themes
Major “The Story of an Hour” themes build on the symbols and motifs previously mentioned. Together, a troubled relationship, indoor/outdoor spaces, and flight work to critique the constrictive institution of marriage in America. While Louise does not appear to be in an abusive or manipulative relationship, the fact is that she feels trapped. While her husband lives, “she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.” When she hears he’s dead, she glimpses “a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely.”
Neither Louise nor Brently can fully live while the other is alive. Brently expects a humble, obedient, submissive wife—a wife without a will of her own. Yet Louise has a heart that beats a singular rhythm. As a wife, she must submit to living a reduced life, veiled behind pretense. She must feign being a person she is not, loving a man she does not.
While we know little about the circumstances of their marriage, we can guess Louise’s parents arranged it to some degree. Perhaps Louise selected Brently from among a larger set of suitors. Whatever the case, she must pretend to love Brently, and to mourn him. This charade is part of her marriage contract. Only as a widow can Louise benefit from the advantages of marriage without sacrificing her identity. This theme points to a larger critique Chopin makes throughout her works on the limited power of 19th century women.
“The Story of an Hour” Analysis
Much goes unsaid in “The Story of an Hour,” which makes analysis particularly important. For example, we know nothing of Brently’s income, industry, or fortune. We can presume he belonged to the upper-middle classes and has a sizeable amount of money tucked away. Otherwise, his apparent death would only add to Louise’s problems. Without money, Louise would have had to find work, and few jobs existed for women back then. While Louise might have become a governess, poorer widows would look for work in sweatshops, or even on the street.
Brently lives the life Louise envies. He can move about freely, on foot or by train. In fact, this train trip plants a mystery which remains unanswered by the end of the story. Why did Brently not ride his train? Did business—or pleasure—take him elsewhere? And why did he not send a telegram? Did he think his wife need not know? Whatever the reason, be it negligence, accident, or intentional deception, Brently’s lack of communication points to an imbalance of power. He answers to no one, while Louise remains bound to him.
“The Story of an Hour” Analysis Continued
Louise’s death can come as a shock to readers, despite the foreshadowing through her troubled heart. We can’t know for sure why Chopin gave her protagonist a tragic ending. Yet we can attempt our own explanations by considering the work as a whole. For a short story, “The Story of an Hour” is particularly short—more like the length of a fable. Fables impart basic truths or morals about life. In this light, we might find some moral or truth that Chopin wished to impart in Louise’s death.
Louise’s brief dreams of a better future are quashed when she sees Brently at the door. She realized that she remains his wife. Thus, the death of Louise can be read as a metaphor to represent the death of hope. Certainly, women had little room for hopes and dreams when their futures were decided for them by others.
Finally, when the doctors arrive, they pronounce Louise dead of “heart disease—of the joy that kills.” Yet readers have been given a window into Louise’s heart. We know she died of great disappointment. The joy her heart felt in finding herself free “warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” It was the sight of her husband that stopped her heart. Louise’s tragedy is twofold. Not only does she die, but she remains misunderstood in death as she was in life. Even her memory becomes prisoner to a man who did not know who she could truly be.
“The Story of an Hour” Summary – What’s Next?
Readers who enjoyed this “The Story of an Hour” summary may want to try works by Henry James and Edith Wharton . And, for more English literature resources, look no further than the following resources:
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With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.
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“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin Literary Analysis: Plot, Themes, Characters, Setting, and Symbolism
Kate Chopin’s (1850-1904) short story “ The Story of an Hour” narrates events that happen within an hour.
Louise Mallard is a young, calm, and frail woman who suffers from a heart disease. On this day, Louise learns from her sister Josephine and a family friend, Richards, that her husband, Brently Mallard, has died. She briefly weeps in Josephine’s arms and then heads to her room alone.
While watching the street from her window, she feels an unknown feeling building up and when she gives in to this, Louise realizes that it is the joy of being free from her husband’s constant impositions on her life. The primary character then begins to envision an exciting future and imagines a life where she will live for herself.
However, these feelings of joy and freedom are short-lived. As Louise walks down the stairs from her room, Brently walks into the house and she learns that her husband did not perish in the accident. Mrs. Mallard dies on the spot and the doctor rules that she died of joy. However, with the knowledge of her previous joy, it’s clear that her death is from the disappointment of losing the full free life she had envisioned.
Let’s look at an analysis of the plot, main themes, characters, setting, and other minor literary devices in “ The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
The Story of an Hour Plot Analysis
“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin has a linear or traditional plot structure with an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and a resolution at the end.
The very first line serves as an introduction or exposition to the plot. Chopin states that Mrs. Mallard “is afflicted with a heart trouble.” This point sets up the rest of the events to come in the story, while it also introduces Mrs. Mallard’s signature trait. Her heart condition also creates a meek perception of her and explains why the other characters have to take great care when telling her sensitive information. The exposition continues with news of Mr. Mallard’s death. Knowing Mrs. Mallard’s frail heart, Josephine breaks the news with care and “veiled hints that revealed in half concealing”.
A rising action begins in the part of the plot that follows, regarding how Mrs. Mallard takes in the news of her husband’s death. Normally, it is expected that a woman learning that her husband just died would take the news with disbelief, loud wailing, or any reaction contrary to Mrs. Mallard. Instead, Chopin explains that Mrs. Mallard “wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.” She then goes into her room, supposedly to mourn her husband.
The story comes to a climax when Louise experiences a feeling that’s contrary to the sadness of losing a husband. She realizes and revels in her newfound freedom thinking, “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature”
“‘Free! Body and soul free!’ she kept whispering.”
After this, the falling action starts with Mrs.Mallard giving in to her sister’s incessant requests and opening her room’s door. Together, they descend the stairs, with Louise feeling victorious and triumphant over her new life. The story finally concludes with a resolution as Brently Mallard enters the room, revealing that he did not die in the railroad accident. Mrs. Mallard dies not because of the joy of her husband’s return, but because of the disappointment as her envisioned life of freedom flashes before her eyes.
Themes in The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
Love and marriage as inherent issues is one of the themes this short story presents. The presence of love is not synonymous with a good marriage, as suggested throughout the plot.
Love and Marriage
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard love each other, and Chopin ensures we know this several times. While welcoming the freedom ahead of her, she still feels bad about her husband’s death because nevertheless, he was a kind man who loved her. “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead”
Louise also admits that she loves Brently, but not all the time. Most of the time she doesn’t. Despite this, she still perceives her husband’s death as a good thing and a gateway to freedom. It’s almost as if she has just been freed from an oppressive situation.
Note that Mrs. Mallard does not state specifically any specific thing that happens during their marriage to change her feelings towards her husband. She instead rants on how marriage is will-bending, with men and women feeling the need to impose their will on others. In his analysis of the author’s works, Kate Chopin’s Life and Personal Influence , Jasdomin Tolentino affirms that Chopin grew up in an environment where women were always taught “to think independently, but also to be submissive to men.” This is reflected in the story as Mrs. Mallard rejoices in her newfound freedom and independence.
Elaine Fortin in her 2014 essay Early Nineteenth Century Attitudes Toward Women and Their Roles as Represented By Literature Popular in Worcester, Massachusetts adds on this forced submission; “Submissive wives, who followed the, advice not to retort an abusive husband, received praise and were supposedly rewarded with a happy home and a faithful husband.” Chopin describes Mrs. Mallard with a “calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.” Men, and the patriarchal society at large, repressed a woman’s need for individuality and independence, not even the strong could survive.
Gender Roles and Gender Inequality
Like most feminist literature published around this time (1894), “The Story of an Hour” covers gender roles and gender inequality heavily as themes too.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, women got the brunt of gender inequality, as society perceived them as inferior to men. They were expected to always depend on their husbands or other male figures in the society like fathers or brothers, as Fortin describes in her literature review above. Domestic roles, including accommodating their husbands through cleaning and cooking, were among a woman’s primary responsibilities. And for those who managed to break these barriers, employment was characterized by lower wages with equal responsibilities, as well as gender discrimination at the workplace. Most women did not seek employment because they lived under their husband’s impositions, including the patriarchal perception that women should stay and tend to the home as men go out and become breadwinners. Fortin also adds that the women had little to no financial independence because everything either belonged to their husbands or fathers.
In The Story of an Hour, Mrs. Mallard is an ideal representation of a woman in the 19 th century who is in search of lost identity and only feels she can achieve this in the absence of her husband. Of interest in the story is that it is only through a husband’s death that a woman during this time would grasp the taste of independence and freedom because then, she’s not living in the shadows of a man. Therefore, despite the sad news and her grief, Mrs. Mallard cannot help but feel happy because life is about to change for the best: she’s finally free. A majority of women did not have the slightest clue about independence and when Louise finally realizes that she is about to live life on her own terms, she’s in utter disbelief.
“She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will.”
It is also important to note that Chopin does not refer to Louise by her own name, but that of her husband, until later when we learn of her newfound freedom. In other words, Louise only finds her identity and independence after Brently dies because women in the 19 th century had to identify with a male figure.
From a feminist literature lens , The Story of an Hour falls under the first wave of feminism, when the movement heavily criticized the power of the patriarchal society and the effects it had on women, especially in marriage. An example is married women whose desires and identities were repressed to fit and serve men.
The story uses both direct and indirect characterization techniques to develop its four characters. Chopin uses a lot of direct characterization of Mrs.Mallard, while she leaves the audience to deduce the traits of the other three characters through indirect characterization.
Mrs. Mallard is the primary character and protagonist . The story begins with details about her heart problem, casting her as fragile and setting the pace for the entire plot. “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” Because of this, Josephine and Richards are careful when breaking the news of Brently’s death. It’s the same reason Josephine worries about Louise’s health when she locks herself in her room.
“Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door–you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven’s sake open the door.”
The two worry that the news of her husband’s death would affect her while ironically, it’s the news of his survival that kills her.
Chopin further characterizes Mrs. Mallard as physically weak and mentally exhausted; traits that bolster the issue of repression painted in the story.
“…she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.”
It’s also evident in several instances that Mrs. Mallard feels exhausted with life, so much that, “It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.” This exhaustion seems to stem from her marriage which has made her a repressed, dutiful, and submissive wife.
As she sits to process Brently’s death in her room, there’s “a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.” Notice how this perception of her changes when she opens the door and descends the door to welcome and live her new free life. There’s “a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory.”
Although there’s no direct characterization of Brently, we can deduce a few things from Mrs.Mallard’s thoughts and actions. Given her perception of marriage, including hers, her husband shares the same societal and patriarchal expectations of women during that period. She marvels, “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; … that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.”
And yet, Mrs. Mallard knows that her husband loved her. She “ knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her.”
The Story of an Hour Setting Analysis
The entire story takes place in Mrs. Mallard’s storied house. Spring season is just starting as the trees come to life and “patches of blue sky showing here and there.”
Spring comes after winter; the cold, lifeless, gloomy, and repressed season. Spring is like a rebirth with its warm weather, as trees grow new life and nature becomes vibrant again. This setting is parallel with what’s happening in Mrs. Mallard’s life. After years of repression in a marriage to someone she doesn’t love, she’s finally free. Life suddenly feels vast and she longs for the life ahead of her, a life she’ll spend living off her own will.
The two rooms where the story’s 60-minutes events take place both represent Louise’s different experiences that all shape the plot. The living room is where she learns about Brently’s death and also where she dies after learning of her husband’s return/survival. It’s a place where cannot be herself and is always under her husband’s will. Even in the end, the doctors conclude that she dies from the happiness of seeing her husband alive, while the true reason is that she has gained and lost her free will in less than an hour.
Mrs. Mallard’s room, on the other hand, is a setting that allows her to be herself, feel her true emotions, and envision a life of freedom.
Symbolism and Motifs in The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
Several objects in the story signify the freedom and rebirth Louise experiences, at least for a few minutes. Besides the setting discussed above, Chopin tactfully includes other instances of symbolism to signify Mrs. Mallard’s new life that promises “Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own.”
The open window with the view before her house has a view of things like trees filled with new spring life, patches of the blue sky amidst clouds, birds chirping, a distant note of someone singing, and so on. All these are signs of something coming to life. She’s embracing and welcoming her new life without Brently, “drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.” These images and symbols of springtime also double as motifs that reinforce the new great life Mrs.Mallard envisions.
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English notes latest questions, what is the significance of the title the story of an hour.
The title of a story serves as an important link to the plot. In this case, the title “The Story of an Hour” aptly suits the main plot of the short story. The freedom and joy gained in one hour after husband’s death by Louise is quickly lost. Within an hour she has a glimpse of her life free from restrictions and her husband and then loses all her dreams and aspirations at the sight of her husband, still alive. The introspection towards life and independence takes place in one hour, at the end of which Louise meets her sudden death.
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Imagine a world where women are fighting for unprecedented rights, the economic climate is unpredictable, and new developments in technology are made every year. While this world might sound like the present day, it also describes America in the 1890s .
It was in this world that author Kate Chopin wrote and lived, and many of the issues of the period are reflected in her short story, “The Story of an Hour.” Now, over a century later, the story remains one of Kate Chopin’s most well-known works and continues to shed light on the internal struggle of women who have been denied autonomy.
In this guide to Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” we’ll discuss:
- A brief history of Kate Chopin and America the 1890s
- “The Story of an Hour” summary
- Analysis of the key story elements in “The Story of an Hour,” including themes, characters, and symbols
By the end of this article, you’ll have an expert grasp on Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” So let’s get started!
“The Story of an Hour” Summary
If it’s been a little while since you’ve read Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” it can be hard to remember the important details. This section includes a quick recap, but you can find “The Story of an Hour” PDF and full version here . We recommend you read it again before diving into our analyses in the next section!
For those who just need a refresher, here’s “The Story of an Hour” summary:
Mrs. Louise Mallard is at home when her sister, Josephine, and her husband’s friend, Richards, come to tell her that her husband, Brently Mallard, has been killed in a railroad accident . Richards had been at the newspaper office when the news broke, and he takes Josephine with him to break the news to Louise since they’re afraid of aggravating her heart condition. Upon hearing the news of her husband’s death, Louise is grief-stricken, locks herself in her room, and weeps.
From here, the story shifts in tone. As Louise processes the news of her husband’s death, she realizes something wonderful and terrible at the same time: she is free . At first she’s scared to admit it, but Louise quickly finds peace and joy in her admission. She realizes that, although she will be sad about her husband (“she had loved him—sometimes,” Chopin writes), Louise is excited for the opportunity to live for herself. She keeps repeating the word “free” as she comes to terms with what her husband’s death means for her life.
In the meantime, Josephine sits at Louise’s door, coaxing her to come out because she is worried about Louise’s heart condition. After praying that her life is long-lived, Louise agrees to come out. However, as she comes downstairs, the front door opens to reveal her husband, who had not been killed by the accident at all. Although Richards tries to keep Louise’s heart from shock by shielding her husband from view, Louise dies suddenly, which the doctors later attribute to “heart disease—of the joy that kills .”
Kate Chopin, the author of "The Story of an Hour," has become one of the most important American writers of the 19th century.
The History of Kate Chopin and the 1890s
Before we move into “The Story of an Hour” analysis section, it’s helpful to know a little bit about Kate Chopin and the world she lived in.
A Short Biography of Kate Chopin
Born in 1850 to wealthy Catholic parents in St. Louis, Missouri, Kate Chopin (originally Kate O’Flaherty) knew hardship from an early age. In 1855, Chopin lost her father, Thomas, when he passed away in a tragic and unexpected railroad accident. The events of this loss would stay with Kate for the rest of her life, eventually becoming the basis for “The Story of an Hour” nearly forty years later.
Chopin was well-educated throughout her childhood , reading voraciously and becoming fluent in French. Chopin was also very aware of the divide between the powerful and the oppressed in society at the time . She grew up during the U.S. Civil War, so she had first-hand knowledge of violence and slavery in the United States.
Chopin was also exposed to non-traditional roles for women through her familial situation. Her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother chose to remain widows (rather than remarry) after their husbands died. Consequently, Chopin learned how important women’s independence could be, and that idea would permeate much of her writing later on.
As Chopin grew older, she became known for her beauty and congeniality by society in St. Louis. She was married at the age of nineteen to Oscar Chopin, who came from a wealthy cotton-growing family. The couple moved to New Orleans, where they would start both a general store and a large family. (Chopin would give birth to seven children over the next nine years!)
While Oscar adored his wife, he was less capable of running a business. Financial trouble forced the family to move around rural Louisiana. Unfortunately, Oscar would die of swamp fever in 1882 , leaving Chopin in heavy debt and with the responsibility of managing the family’s struggling businesses.
After trying her hand at managing the property for a year, Chopin conceded to her mother’s requests to return with her children to St. Louis. Chopin’s mother died the year after. In order to support herself and her children, Kate began to write to support her family.
Luckily, Chopin found immediate success as a writer. Many of her short stories and novels—including her most famous novel, The Awakening— dealt with life in Louisiana . She was also known as a fast and prolific writer, and by the end of the 1900s she had written over 100 stories, articles, and essays.
Unfortunately, Chopin would pass away from a suspected cerebral hemorrhage in 1904, at the age of 54 . But Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and other writings have withstood the test of time. Her work has lived on, and she’s now recognized as one of the most important American writers of the 19th century.
American life was undergoing significant change in the 19th century. Technology, culture, and even leisure activities were changing.
American Life in the 1890s
“The Story of an Hour” was written and published in 1894, right as the 1800s were coming to a close. As the world moved into the new century, American life was also changing rapidly.
For instance, t he workplace was changing drastically in the 1890s . Gone were the days where most people were expected to work at a trade or on a farm. Factory jobs brought on by industrialization made work more efficient, and many of these factory owners gradually implemented more humane treatment of their workers, giving them more leisure time than ever.
Though the country was in an economic recession at this time, technological changes like electric lighting and the popularization of radios bettered the daily lives of many people and allowed for the creation of new jobs. Notably, however, work was different for women . Working women as a whole were looked down upon by society, no matter why they found themselves in need of a job.
Women who worked while they were married or pregnant were judged even more harshly. Women of Kate Chopin’s social rank were expected to not work at all , sometimes even delegating the responsibility of managing the house or child-rearing to maids or nannies. In the 1890s, working was only for lower class women who could not afford a life of leisure .
In reaction to this, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was created in 1890, which fought for women’s social and political rights. While Kate Chopin was not a formal member of the suffragette movements, she did believe that women should have greater freedoms as individuals and often talked about these ideas in her works, including in “The Story of an Hour.”
Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" a short exploration of marriage and repression in America.
“The Story of an Hour” Analysis
Now that you have some important background information, it’s time to start analyzing “The Story of an Hour.”
This short story is filled with opposing forces . The themes, characters, and even symbols in the story are often equal, but opposite, of one another. Within “The Story of an Hour,” analysis of all of these elements reveals a deeper meaning.
“The Story of an Hour” Themes
A theme is a message explored in a piece of literature. Most stories have multiple themes, which is certainly the case in “The Story of an Hour.” Even though Chopin’s story is short, it discusses the thematic ideas of freedom, repression, and marriage.
Keep reading for a discussion of the importance of each theme!
Freedom and Repression
The most prevalent theme in Chopin’s story is the battle between freedom and “repression.” Simply put , repression happens when a person’s thoughts, feelings, or desires are being subdued. Repression can happen internally and externally. For example, if a person goes through a traumatic accident, they may (consciously or subconsciously) choose to repress the memory of the accident itself. Likewise, if a person has wants or needs that society finds unacceptable, society can work to repress that individual. Women in the 19th century were often victims of repression. They were supposed to be demure, gentle, and passive—which often went against women’s personal desires.
Given this, it becomes apparent that Louise Mallard is the victim of social repression. Until the moment of her husband’s supposed death, Louise does not feel free . In their marriage, Louise is repressed. Readers see this in the fact that Brently is moving around in the outside world, while Louise is confined to her home. Brently uses railroad transportation on his own, walks into his house of his own accord, and has individual possessions in the form of his briefcase and umbrella. Brently is even free from the knowledge of the train wreck upon his return home. Louise, on the other hand, is stuck at home by virtue of her position as a woman and her heart condition.
Here, Chopin draws a strong contrast between what it means to be free for men and women. While freedom is just part of what it means to be a man in America, freedom for women looks markedly different. Louise’s life is shaped by what society believes a woman should be and how a wife should behave. Once Louise’s husband “dies,” however, she sees a way where she can start claiming some of the more “masculine” freedoms for herself. Chopin shows how deeply important freedom is to the life of a woman when, in the end, it’s not the shock of her husband’s return of her husband that kills Louise, but rather the thought of losing her freedom again.
Marriage as a “The Story of an Hour” theme is more than just an idyllic life spent with a significant other. The Mallard’s marriage shows a reality of 1890s life that was familiar to many people. Marriage was a means of social control —that is to say, marriage helped keep women in check and secure men’s social and political power. While husbands were usually free to wander the world on their own, hold jobs, and make important family decisions, wives (at least those of the upper class) were expected to stay at home and be domestic.
Marriage in Louise Mallard’s case has very little love. She sees her marriage as a life-long bond in which she feels trapped, which readers see when she confesses that she loved her husband only “sometimes.” More to the point, she describes her marriage as a “powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.” In other words, Louise Mallard feels injustice in the expectation that her life is dictated by the will of her husband.
Like the story, the marriages Kate witnessed often ended in an early or unexpected death. The women of her family, including Kate herself, all survived their husbands and didn’t remarry. While history tells us that Kate Chopin was happy in her marriage, she was aware that many women weren’t. By showing a marriage that had been built on control and society’s expectations, Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” highlights the need for a world that respected women as valuable partners in marriage as well as capable individuals.
While this painting by Johann Georg Meyer wasn't specifically of Louise Mallard, "Young Woman Looking Through a Window" is a depiction of what Louise might have looked like as she realized her freedom.
"The Story of an Hour" Characters
The best stories have developed characters, which is the case in “The Story of an Hour,” too. Five characters make up the cast of “The Story of an Hour”:
- The doctor(s)
By exploring the details of each character, we can better understand their motivations, societal role, and purpose to the story.
From the opening sentence alone, we learn a lot about Louise Mallard. Chopin writes, “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.”
From that statement alone, we know that she is married, has a heart condition, and is likely to react strongly to bad news . We also know that the person who is sharing the bad news views Louise as delicate and sensitive. Throughout the next few paragraphs, we also learn that Louise is a housewife, which indicates that she would be part of the middle-to-upper class in the 1890s. Chopin also describes Louise’s appearance as “young,” “fair, calm face,” with lines of “strength.” These characteristics are not purely physical, but also bleed into her character throughout the story.
Louise’s personality is described as different from other women . While many women would be struck with the news in disbelief, Louise cries with “wild abandonment”—which shows how powerful her emotions are. Additionally, while other women would be content to mourn for longer, Louise quickly transitions from grief to joy about her husband’s passing.
Ultimately, Chopin uses Louise’s character to show readers what a woman’s typical experience within marriage was in the 1890s. She uses Louise to criticize the oppressive and repressive nature of marriage, especially when Louise rejoices in her newfound freedom.
Josephine is Louise’s sister . We never hear of Josephine’s last name or whether she is married or not. We do know that she has come with Richards, a friend of Brently’s, to break the news of his death to her sister.
When Josephine tells Louise the bad news, she’s only able to tell Louise of Brently’s death in “veiled hints,” rather than telling her outright. Readers can interpret this as Josephine’s attempt at sparing Louise’s feelings. Josephine is especially worried about her sister’s heart condition, which we see in greater detail later as she warns Louise, “You will make yourself ill.” When Louise locks herself in her room, Josephine is desperate to make sure her sister is okay and begs Louise to let her in.
Josephine is the key supporting character for Louise, helping her mourn, though she never knows that Louise found new freedom from her husband’s supposed death . But from Josephine’s actions and interactions with Louise, readers can accurately surmise that she cares for her sister (even if she’s unaware of how miserable Louise finds her life).
Richards is another supporting character, though he is described as Brently’s friend, not Louise’s friend. It is Richards who finds out about Brently Mallard’s supposed death while at the newspaper office—he sees Brently’s name “leading the list of ‘killed.’” Richards’ main role in “The Story of an Hour” is to kick off the story’s plot.
Additionally, Richard’s presence at the newspaper office suggests he’s a writer, editor, or otherwise employee of the newspaper (although Chopin leaves this to readers’ inferences). Richards takes enough care to double-check the news and to make sure that Brently’s likely dead. He also enlists Josephine’s help to break the news to Louise. He tries to get to Louise before a “less careful, less tender friend” can break the sad news to her, which suggests that he’s a thoughtful person in his own right.
It’s also important to note is that Richards is aware of Louise’s heart condition, meaning that he knows Louise Mallard well enough to know of her health and how she is likely to bear grief. He appears again in the story at the very end, when he tries (and fails) to shield Brently from his wife’s view to prevent her heart from reacting badly. While Richards is a background character in the narrative, he demonstrates a high level of friendship, consideration, and care for Louise.
Brently Mallard would have been riding in a train like this one when the accident supposedly occurred.
Mr. Brently Mallard is the husband of the main character, Louise. We get few details about him, though readers do know he’s been on a train that has met with a serious accident. For the majority of the story, readers believe Brently Mallard is dead—though the end of “The Story of an Hour” reveals that he’s been alive all along. In fact, Brently doesn’t even know of the railroad tragedy when he arrives home “travel-stained.”
Immediately after Louise hears the news of his death, she remembers him fondly. She remarks on his “kind, tender hands” and says that Brently “never looked save with love” upon her . It’s not so much Brently as it’s her marriage to him which oppresses Louise. While he apparently always loved Louise, Louise only “sometimes” loved Brently. She constantly felt that he “impose[d] a private will” upon her, as most husbands do their wives. And while she realizes that Brently likely did so without malice, she also realized that “a kind intention or a cruel intention” makes the repression “no less a crime.”
Brently’s absence in the story does two things. First, it contrasts starkly with Louise’s life of illness and confinement. Second, Brently’s absence allows Louise to imagine a life of freedom outside of the confines of marriage , which gives her hope. In fact, when he appears alive and well (and dashes Louise’s hopes of freedom), she passes away.
Though the mention of them is brief, the final sentence of the story is striking. Chopin writes, “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of the joy that kills.” Just as she had no freedom in life, her liberation from the death of her husband is told as a joy that killed her.
In life as in death, the truth of Louise Mallard is never known. Everything the readers know about her delight in her newfound freedom happens in Louise’s own mind; she never gets the chance to share her secret joy with anyone else.
Consequently, the ending of the story is double-sided. If the doctors are to be believed, Louise Mallard was happy to see her husband, and her heart betrayed her. And outwardly, no one has any reason to suspect otherwise. Her reaction is that of a dutiful, delicate wife who couldn’t bear the shock of her husband returned from the grave.
But readers can infer that Louise Mallard died of the grief of a freedom she never had , then found, then lost once more. Readers can interpret Louise’s death as her experience of true grief in the story—that for her ideal life, briefly realized then snatched away.
In "The Story of an Hour," the appearance of hearts symbolize both repression and hope.
“The Story of an Hour” Symbolism and Motifs
Symbols are any object, word, or other element that appear in the story and have additional meanings beyond. Motifs are elements from a story that gain meaning from being repeated throughout the narrative. The line between symbols and motifs is often hazy, but authors use both to help communicate their ideas and themes.
In “The Story of an Hour,” symbolism is everywhere, but the three major symbols present in the story are:
- The heart
- The house and the outdoors
- Joy and sorrow
Heart disease, referred to as a “heart condition” within the text, opens and closes the text. The disease is the initial cause for everyone’s concern, since Louise’s condition makes her delicate. Later, heart disease causes Louise’s death upon Brently’s safe return. In this case, Louise’s ailing heart has symbolic value because it suggests to readers that her life has left her heartbroken. When she believes she’s finally found freedom, Louise prays for a long life...when just the day before, she’d “had thought with a shudder that life might be long.”
As Louise realizes her freedom, it’s almost as if her heart sparks back to life. Chopin writes, “Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously...she was striving to beat it back...Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” These words suggest that, with her newfound freedom, the symptoms of her heart disease have lifted. Readers can surmise that Louise’s diseased heart is the result of being repressed, and hope brings her heart back to life.
Unfortunately, when Brently comes back, so does Louise’s heart disease. And, although her death is attributed to joy, the return of her (both symbolic and literal) heart disease kills her in the end.
The House and the Outdoors
The second set of symbols are Louise’s house and the world she can see outside of her window. Chopin contrasts these two symbolic images to help readers better understand how marriage and repression have affected Louise.
First of all, Louise is confined to the home—both within the story and in general. For her, however, her home isn’t a place to relax and feel comfortable. It’s more like a prison cell. All of the descriptions of the house reinforce the idea that it’s closed off and inescapable . For instance, the front door is locked when Mr. Mallard returns home. When Mrs. Mallard is overcome with grief, she goes deeper inside her house and locks herself in her room.
In that room, however, Mrs. Mallard takes note of the outdoors by looking out of her window. Even in her momentary grief, she describes the “open square before her house” and “the new spring life.” The outdoors symbolize freedom in the story, so it’s no surprise that she realizes her newfound freedom as she looks out her window. Everything about the outside is free, beautiful, open, inviting, and pleasant...a stark contrast from the sadness inside the house .
The house and its differences from outdoors serve as one of many symbols for how Louise feels about her marriage: barred from a world of independence.
Joy and Sorrow
Finally, joy and sorrow are motifs that come at unexpected times throughout “The Story of an Hour.” Chopin juxtaposes joy and sorrow to highlight how tragedy releases Louise from her sorrow and gives her a joyous hope for the future.
At first, sorrow appears as Louise mourns the death of her husband. Yet, in just a few paragraphs, she finds joy in the event as she discovers a life of her own. Though Louise is able to see that feeling joy at such an event is “monstrous,” she continues to revel in her happiness.
It is later that, when others expect her to be joyful, Josephine lets out a “piercing cry,” and Louise dies. Doctors interpret this as “the joy that kills,” but more likely it’s a sorrow that kills. The reversal of the “appropriate” feelings at each event reveals how counterintuitive the “self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” is to the surrounding culture. This paradox reveals something staggering about Louise’s married life: she is so unhappy with her situation that grief gives her hope...and she dies when that hope is taken away.
Key Takeaways: Kate Chopin's “The Story of an Hour”
Analyzing Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” takes time and careful thought despite the shortness of the story. The story is open to multiple interpretations and has a lot to reveal about women in the 1890s, and many of the story’s themes, characters, and symbols critique women’s marriage roles during the period .
There’s a lot to dig through when it comes to “The Story of an Hour” analysis. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember a few things :
- Events from Kate Chopin’s life and from social changes in the 1890s provided a strong basis for the story.
- Mrs. Louise Mallard’s heart condition, house, and feelings represent deeper meanings in the narrative.
- Louise goes from a state of repression, to freedom, and then back to repression, and the thought alone is enough to kill her.
Remembering the key plot points, themes, characters, and symbols will help you write any essay or participate in any discussion. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” has much more to uncover, so read it again, ask questions, and start exploring the story beyond the page!
You may have found your way to this article because analyzing literature can be tricky to master. But like any skill, you can improve with practice! First, make sure you have the right tools for the job by learning about literary elements. Start by mastering the 9 elements in every piece of literature , then dig into our element-specific guides (like this one on imagery and this one on personification .)
Another good way to start practicing your analytical skills is to read through additional expert guides like this one. Literary guides can help show you what to look for and explain why certain details are important. You can start with our analysis of Dylan Thomas’ poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” We also have longer guides on other words like The Great Gatsby and The Crucible , too.
If you’re preparing to take the AP Literature exam, it’s even more important that you’re able to quickly and accurately analyze a text . Don’t worry, though: we’ve got tons of helpful material for you. First, check out this overview of the AP Literature exam . Once you have a handle on the test, you can start practicing the multiple choice questions , and even take a few full-length practice tests . Oh, and make sure you’re ready for the essay portion of the test by checking out our AP Literature reading list!
Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.
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The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay
Looking for a critical analysis of The Story of an Hour ? The essay on this page contains a summary of Kate Chopin’s short story, its interpretation, and feminist criticism. Find below The Story of an Hour critique together with the analysis of its characters, themes, symbolism, and irony.
The Story of an Hour was written by Kate Chopin in 1984. It describes a woman, Mrs. Mallard, who lost her husband in an accident, but later the truth came out, and the husband was alive. This essay will discuss The Story of an Hour with emphasis on the plot and development of the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, who goes through contrasting emotions and feelings that finally kill her on meeting her husband at the door, yet he had been said to be dead.
The Story of an Hour Summary
Kate Chopin narrated the story of a woman named Mrs. Mallard who had a heart health problem. One day the husband was mistaken to have died in an accident that occurred. Due to her heart condition, her sister had to take care while breaking the bad news to her. She was afraid that such news of her husband’s death would cost her a heart attack. She strategized on how to break the news to her sister bit by bit, which worked perfectly well. Mrs. Mallard did not react as expected; instead, she started weeping just once.
She did not hear the story as many women have had the same with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms (Woodlief 2).
Mrs. Mallard wondered how she would survive without a husband. She went to one room and locked herself alone to ponder what the death of her husband brought to her life. She was sorrowful that her husband had died, like it is human to be sad at such times. This is someone very close to her, but only in a short span of time was no more. This sudden death shocked her. Her sister Josephine and friends Mr. Richard and Louise are also sorry for the loss (Taibah 1).
As she was in that room alone, she thought genuinely about the future. Unexpectedly, she meditated on her life without her husband. Apart from sorrow, she started counting the better part of her life without her husband. She saw many opportunities and freedom to do what she wanted with her life. She believed that the coming years would be perfect for her as she only had herself to worry about. She even prayed that life would be long.
After some time, she opened the door for Josephine, her sister, who had a joyous face. They went down the stairs of the house, and Mr. Mallard appeared as he opened the gate. Mr. Mallard had not been involved in the accident and could not understand why Josephine was crying. At the sight of her husband, Mr. Mallard, his wife, Mrs. Mallard, collapsed to death. The doctors said that she died because of heart disease.
The Story of an Hour Analysis
Mrs. Mallard was known to have a heart problem. Richard, who is Mr. Mallard’s friend, was the one who learned of Mr. Mallard’s death while in the office and about the railroad accident that killed him. They are with Josephine, Mrs. Mallard’s sister, as she breaks the news concerning the sudden death of her husband. The imagery clearly describes the situation.
The writer brought out the suspense in the way he described how the news was to be broken to a person with a heart problem. There is a conflict that then follows in Mrs. Mallard’s response which becomes more complicated. The death saddens Mrs. Mallard, but, on the other hand, she counts beyond the bitter moments and sees freedom laid down for her for the rest of her life. The description of the room and the environment symbolize a desire for freedom.
This story mostly focuses on this woman and a marriage institution. Sad and happy moments alternate in the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard. She is initially sad about the loss of her husband, then in a moment, ponders on the effects of his death and regains strength.
Within a short period, she is shocked by the sight of her husband being alive and even goes to the extreme of destroying her life. She then dies of a heart attack, whereas she was supposed to be happy to see her husband alive. This is an excellent contrast of events, but it makes the story very interesting.
She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below, a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song that someone was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves. There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window (Woodlief 1).
Therefore, an open window is symbolic. It represents new opportunities and possibilities that she now had in her hands without anyone to stop her, and she refers to it as a new spring of life.
She knew that she was not in a position to bring her husband back to life.
Her feelings were mixed up. Deep inside her, she felt that she had been freed from living for another person.
She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her… She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death, the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead (Sparknotes 1).
The author captured a marriage institution that was dominated by a man. This man, Mr. Mallard, did not treat his wife as she would like (the wife) at all times, only sometimes. This Cleary showed that she was peaceful even if her husband was dead. Only some sorrow because of the loss of his life but not of living without him. It seemed that she never felt the love for her husband.
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 procession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! (Woodlief 1).
How could a wife be peaceful at the death of her husband? Though people thought that she treasured her husband, Mr. Mallard, so much and was afraid that she would be stressed, she did not see much of the bitterness like she found her freedom. This reveals how women are oppressed in silence but never exposed due to other factors such as wealth, money, and probably outfits.
As much as wealth is essential, the characters Mr. and Mrs. Mallard despise the inner being. Their hearts were crying amid a physical smile: “Free! Body and soul free!”…Go away. I am not making myself ill.” No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window” (Woodlief 1).
In this excerpt, Mrs. Mallard knows what she is doing and believes that she is not harming herself. Instead, she knew that though the husband was important to her, marriage had made her a subject to him. This was not in a positive manner but was against her will. It seems she had done many things against her will, against herself, but to please her husband.
Mrs. Mallard’s character is therefore developed throughout this story in a short time and reveals many values that made her what she was. She is a woman with a big desire for freedom that was deprived by a man in marriage. She is very emotional because after seeing her freedom denied for the second time by her husband, who was mistaken to have died, she collapses and dies. The contrast is when the writer says, “She had died of heart disease…of the joy that kills” (Woodlief 1).
Mrs. Mallard was not able to handle the swings in her emotions, and this cost her life. Mr. Mallard was left probably mourning for his wife, whom he never treasured. He took her for granted and had to face the consequences. Oppressing a wife or another person causes a more significant loss to the oppressor. It is quite ironic that Mr. Mallard never knew that his presence killed his wife.
Sparknotes. The Story of an Hour. Sparknotes, 2011. Web.
Taibah. The Story of an Hour. Taibah English Forum, 2011. Web.
Woodlief. The story of an hour . VCU, 2011. Web.
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The Story of an Hour
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Analysis: “The Story of an Hour”
The title “The Story of an Hour” references the amount of time that elapses in Chopin’s tale, which tracks the emotions and thoughts of the protagonist , Mrs. Louise Mallard , upon learning of her husband’s death. Though the story barely exceeds 1,000 words, Chopin creates a sense of temporal expansion by intricately plotting the transition of Louise’s feelings from grief, to liberation, to joy, to determination, and finally to shock at her husband’s unexpected return. By employing a third-person omniscient narrator, Chopin balances these observations of Louise’s interior life with observations of contemporary social expectations for women in 1890s America. She uses psychological realism , a literary genre that prioritizes character interiority over action, and that was popular with late 19th-century writers who were also influenced by the naturalist and realist literary movements.
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