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Kate Chopin: The Story of an Hour


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A Lot Can Happen in an Hour

Kate Chopin’s, The Story of an Hour, is an ironic tragedy. It depicts death as a blessing. The story is narrated from the third person, it begins with Mrs. Louise Mallard being told that her husband, Brently, has died, and ends with her own death, when she sees Mr. Mallard still alive.
The irony of Mrs. Mallard’s death emerges, through her emotional journey, during that hour of time. The great care Louise’s sister and husband’s friend take in breaking the sad news to her, on account of her heart condition, foreshadow the tragic ending. On being told Mr. Mallard had died in a train wreck, “She wept at once, with a sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.”[3] After regaining her composure she retreats to another room to sit in front of a window where “a sob came up her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.”[7]
She continues looking out the window at the sunny day outside, all of the ordinary sights and sounds one would expect on such a day sooth her. As she clears her mind a great revelation comes to her “a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “Free, free, free!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes.” The outside environment is important in reflecting Louise‘s frame of mind, had the day been stormy it would not have buttressed her moment of clarity as readily as clear blue sky.
In her new mind-frame she contemplates what her husband’s death means to her “men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination. / And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter!” [14-15] The gaining of self-assertion makes the loss of love irrelevant to her, ““Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering.” [16]
Paragraph 19 helps to set the stage for the ending; her new interest in life makes her death more tragic, “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.” little does she know hers is about to end. The shock of Mr. Mallard walking in the door as she comes back down to the front room is too much for her delicate heart. “He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry; at Richard’s quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife. / But Richards was too late. / When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of joy that kills.”[21-23] The irony of the situation is that Louise Mallard dies and Brently Mallard lives, where the expectation had been set up for the opposite. Adding to the irony is the conclusion that she had died of joy, when the reader has been allowed to see that it was shock to see Brently alive, just as she is looking forward to a long life without him.
Had the story been told from Mr. Mallard’s perspective much of the irony would have been lost as none of Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts could have come into play. Though Mrs. Mallard had loved Mr. Mallard she had taken his death as a positive change for herself, that she dies instead is tragic, that Brently does not fully understand why she died may be a blessing for him. Had she lived after her revelation and shock, it could reasonably be predicted that marital problems would arise from Louise’s changed attitude toward life.
Had Mr. Mallard not walked in the door the story would have lost much of its meaning; it would then have been a less complex plot of a woman’s reaction to being widowed. Her heart condition would have become irrelevant, except as a reason for her sister and husband’s friend to be solicitous.
Kate Chopin tells the story of an hour in which a woman experiences a tragedy, a revelation that makes it a blessing and a great shock that triggers another tragedy that is also a blessing. In a brief two pages, Chopin conveys layers of meaning through setting, characterization, timing of events, the element of surprise, and foreshadowing. The story illustrates how much difference perspective can make in how an event is interpreted and how unpredictable life, and death, can be.
I read this story last night and I have to say it's one of my top favorites.

Just a bit of a biography on the authour:
She always contemplated a literary career but she din't turn seriously into writing until after her husbands death..

Pretty interesting and I wonder if it had anything to do with the subject of this story.