“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin is a short story from the late nineteenth century focusing on a young woman as she reacts to a report that says her husband, on the top of the list of the report, had died in a train accident. Due to this unfortunate accident she is given the chance of freedom and Chopin’s story tells that hour.
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The main theme to this short story one may think it relates to the saying, “carpe diem”, meaning to seize the day. The themes of this short story include oppression and repression. In the late nineteenth century, society wanted women to take care of their children, cook, and keep the house clean. This short story hints that Mrs. Mallard’s husband was in charge of his wife. Jamil states that “a woman is not expected to engage in self-assertion” (216). She also states that “the patriarchy of the time mandated the complete dependence of wives on husbands, making marriage a form of slavery” (Jamil, 216). Also, Mrs. Mallard appears to have been one who probably did not have the desire to control her destiny. During her marriage with Mr. Mallard, she may have suffered constant stress that may well have caused her “heart trouble,” referred to in the first sentence of the story. Jamil says “As Chopin implies, Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble is not so much a physical ailment, as the other characters in the story think, as a sign of a woman who has unconsciously surrendered her heart to the culture of paternalism” (216). Along with the theme, there were several basic literary terms that one may have noticed and those are symbolism, irony, similes and personification.
Symbolism was a strong term in this short story, mainly because one can point out a symbol in most of the detailed paragraphs. In paragraph five, Kate Chopin says “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 airâ€¦ and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Chopin, 1). Jamil stated on page 217:
“These objects inspire joy and her hope in her, which, in turn, stir Louise’s attention: “[S]he felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air” (Chopin, 1). The “it” that she fills emerging from nature is the vision, or perception, of her freedom, which occurs through her aroused emotions. The presence of emotion signifies Louise’s sensitivity, responsiveness, and mindfulness.”
In this paragraph five, the author describes that it was during the spring when all this took place. Mrs. Mallard thinks that she is about to have a new and exciting life. In paragraph six, Katie Chopin says “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” (Chopin, 1). That sentence in paragraph six states that there were patches of blue sky; possibly that there was death wished upon her and somehow automatically there was a change in the protagonist’s life.
There were also similes within this short story. One paragraph that clearly states a simile is “there was a…of victory” (Chopin, 2). Jamil states “Louise breaks the shackles of the patriarchal culture as she comprehends that she can “live for herself” instead of living the life that her husband sanctions for her” (219). This states how she over came the grief of her husband. One may think Chopin used this simile because it was a very strong representation of a woman finally realizing that she has the ability to live life the way she wants to.
Another literary term that appeared in the story was irony. A piece of irony from the short story was the title of the story, “The Story of an Hour.” This may be ironic to one because, just by the title being stated, the story must have happened within an hour, but Kate Chopin made it seem like it lasted a couple of days. This is ironic because Mrs. Mallard only needed an hour to know that she did not need her husband anymore to be happy and live. But, it would take another wife, maybe a few years to fully recover from a spouse’s death. The main irony one may see the most is in the end of the story in paragraph twenty-three when Katie Chopin states “â€¦joy that kills” (Chopin, 2). Jamil states “Louise is the joy that she refuses to surrender, as the patriarchy would require her to do at Brently’s return. But, for one climactic hour of her life, Louise does truly taste joy.” (220) This is an ironic sentence at the end of the story due to the doctors believed that Mrs. Mallard was happy to see her husband alive and in one piece. The ending was very ironic because of the outcome of Mrs. Mallard. The whole story was a rising action until you got to her death at the end of the story. The author made it seem that there was so much for Mrs. Mallard to live for, but when Mrs. Mallard saw her husband, alive, there was not anything worth living for to Mrs. Mallard.
The first sentence of the short story foreshadows the ending. The opening sentence of the short story says, “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” (Chopin, 1). It makes one think that the ending outcome of the story has something to do with the heart condition of Mrs. Mallard. The opening sentence also makes the ending of the story more believable. Without an early reference to her heart problem, the ending would seem unbelievable and fake.
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Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition plays a big part of the whole story. As the story begins, the reader may have discovered that Mrs. Mallard’s heart problem may have resulted from stress caused by her inferior status in the male-dominated culture that she is living in. For example, in paragraph eight, Chopin says the young woman’s face “bespoke repression” (Chopin, 1); in paragraph fourteen; the author tells us that a “powerful will” was “bending” Mrs. Mallard (Chopin, 2). Finally, in paragraph fifteen, Chopin notes: “Often she had not” loved her husband (Chopin, 2). Jamil says
“When she spots her husband, Louise seems to realize in an instant not only that her husband, as a proponent of patriarchal culture, would never allow for a woman’s self-discovery, but also that she could never reverse her progress and once uptake again the confinement of her former life” (219-220). Would you the reader believe she randomly had a heart problem or would you believe it was from the stress of her husband?
Also, why did the author delay revealing the protagonist’s first name? Not until paragraph sixteen in the short story does the reader learn the protagonist’s first name, Louise. The reader may believe the author did not reveal the young woman’s name to suggest that she lacked individuality and identity. While she was in her room alone mourning about her husband is when she regains her own identity. Jamil states “In that one hour, then, Louise sees and creates a new identity with her newly awakened faculty of emotions (219). At this time is when her sister, Josephine, calls out, “Louise, open the door!” However, even though Mrs. Mallard may have changed her identity, she is still in part of a male identity because Louise is the feminine form of Louis.
In conclusion, one may think that Chopin sent a thorough message by writing this short story. The message of the short story saying, “Live life to the fullest while you can.” One may also think that is a great statement to live by because Mrs. Mallard seemed to be living under constraints that bothered her, but did not do anything about it. Mrs. Mallard did not realize that having freedom and having her individual identity is something that you cannot take for granted. Jamil states “For one hour of emotion, Louise does glimpse meaning and fulfillment” (220). Chopin used the literary terms, symbolism, similes, and irony to help the reader view and explain the meaning of this short story.
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