The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example

Words: 1585
Topic: Literature
Updated:

The Story of an Hour is a short story written by Kate Chopin in 1894. This famous piece of literature was controversial for its time, as the story mentioned a female protagonist who felt relieved after her husband’s death. The following The Story of an Hour analysis essay will summarize the plot. The reader will consider an extensive character analysis of Mrs. Mallard.

Introduction

Kate Chopin (born Catherine O’Flaherty) is an American writer. She is best known for her narratives of delicate and brave women’s inner lives. Her novel “The Awakening” and her short stories, among them The Story of an Hour, are being read in countries all over the world today. She is widely recognized as one of the most important authors in America.

In 1984, Kate Chopin wrote The Story of an Hour. The writing portrays a woman, Louise Mallard, who lost her husband in an accident. However, she later discovers that the husband survived. Mrs. Mallard goes through many emotions and feelings, reevaluating her life. That ultimately kills her when she meets the presumed dead husband at the door. The following The Story of an Hour essay will focus on the plot and the protagonist’s self-development.

The Story of an Hour Summary

Louise Mallard, the main character, had always had a heart problem. It was not a secret for her friends and relatives, so everyone tried to protect her from worries.

One day her husband, Brently Mallard, was mistaken for having died in a horrible railroad accident. Richard, Mr. Mallard’s friend, was the one who learned about this death while in the office. Josephine, her sister, broke the news to Louise.

She was very cautious because of Mrs. Mallard’s health issue. Josephine feared such a tragedy would cause a heart attack. Bit by bit, she strategized how to tell everything to her sister, which went perfectly well. Mrs. Mallard began to weep, only once. She did not receive the story the same way many women do with a helpless incapacity to acknowledge its meaning. She only cried in her sister’s arms with a feeling of a sudden, wild abandonment (Woodlief 2).

Immediately Mrs. Mallard found herself wondering how she could survive without her husband. She went to a room and locked herself to contemplate the consequences of his death. She was devastated, and this sadness was only natural. This man had been close to her, even though only for a short time. Her sister Josephine and her Mr. Richard also mourned the loss (Taibah 1).

Mrs. Mallard was alone in that room, thinking about the future. As she was contemplating her fate, instead of grief, she began realizing that this is the beginning of a better part of her life. Louise saw independence and plenty of possibilities to do what her heart desired. Now, she had only to think about herself.

Later, Josephine comes to Louise’s room, crying with a joyous smile. They descend the house’s stairs where Mr. Mallard appears at the door. He was not involved in the accident and did not understand why Josephine was crying. At the shock of seeing her husband again, Mrs. Mallard collapses. The doctors declare that she died because of the problems with her heart.

The Story of an Hour Analysis

Health issues of the central character play a significant role in the story. The author managed to bring the suspense out in the way he described telling the bad news to a person with a heart problem. Josephine, Louise’s sister, tries her best to be careful and attentive, expecting a painful response. However, Mrs. Mallard reacts better than anticipated.

The focus of the story is mostly about femininity and the institution of marriage. The analysis of The Story of an Hour has to speculate on it to reveal the core message.

The author was able to illustrate that men entirely dominated the institution of marriage. Mr. Mallard, for instance, treated his wife the way she wanted only from time to time. For years, Louise has done many things to please her husband without looking after her well-being. So, having received the disturbing news, she is quite happy. It seemed that she had never cared for her husband at all.

Or did she? Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to the death of a spouse is complicated. She cannot escape the loneliness and grief that came with the loss. But the possibility of happiness prevails. Louise knew that marriage had made her a subject for him against her will. The only sorrow that existed is for the loss of his life but not for living without him. She felt deep inside that she had been freed from chains of living for another person.

Mr. Mallard’s apparent death saddens Louise, at first. She is devastated about his fate but regains the strength quickly. Louise was well aware of the fact that she could not bring her husband back. So, she came to terms with it, which wasn’t difficult. Mrs. Mallard sees beyond the painful moment, anticipating freedom for the rest of her life.

The room and environment around Mrs. Mallard symbolize her desire for freedom. Through the window, for example, Mrs. Mallard could see the tops of trees. They were all aquiver with the new spring life on the open square before her house. There was a delicious breath of rain in the air. A peddler was weeping his wares in the street below. There were spots of blue sky showing up here and there through the clouds in the west facing her window which had met and piled up one above the other (Woodlief 1).

An open window could be interpreted as a metaphor. It reflects new possibilities and resources that Mrs. Mallard now had in her sights without anybody stopping her. She referred to it as the late spring of life.

The story reveals how women were secretly marginalized. At the time, society expected them to pursue wealth and safety, which came with a husband.  Liberty should be neither their worry nor their goal. When Louise feels freedom after Mr. Mallard’s death, she kept it secret for obvious reasons. But then, her sister arrives.

Mrs. Mallard is shocked by the sight of her husband alive within a short period. All of her newfound liberty and dreams came crashing down at that moment. This shattering experience even goes to the extreme of destroying her life. Whereas she was to be happy to see her husband alive, Louise dies from a heart attack.

There is a situational irony presented in the author’s stylistic way of words: “She had died of heart disease…of the joy that kills.” People around anticipated this tragedy from the news about Mr. Mallard’s death, not miraculous survival.

Therefore, the author explored the character of Mrs. Mallard throughout this story. The reader can’t be surprised by her sudden death or miss its irony. Louise is a woman with a great desire for independence, which a man has deprived her of through marriage. Mr. Mallard represents the absence of her liberty that restores after his death. When Mrs. Mallard sees her husband at the door once again, she collapses and never wakes up.

Conclusion

From The Story of an Hour literary analysis, we can draw several important conclusions. Mrs. Mallard couldn’t control her emotions when they concerned the most vital matters. The lack of liberty and independence may have caused her heart problems in the first place. And they costed her life in the end.

Her husband, Mr. Mallard, took Louise’s freedom when he married her. However, as it became apparent from the story, he never valued her. When she died, he had finally faced the consequences of always taking her existence for granted.

Therefore, the oppressor faced even a more influential tragedy than the oppressed. The dramatic irony of Mr. Mallard’s unawareness of his wife’s true feelings towards him is a big part of the story. So, in the end, it was Mr. Mallard’s presence that killed his wife.

References

  1. Chopin, Kate. The Story of an hour. The Kate Chopin International Society. Web.
  2. Woodlief, Ann. The Story of an Hour. 2011, Virginia Commonwealth University. Web.

FAQ

❓ What is the symbolism in The Story of an Hour?

Through The Story of an Hour, the author presents us with the inner feelings and thoughts of a woman using various symbols. Mrs. Mallard’s heart problem symbolizes her dissatisfaction with the marriage, while the open window illustrates her aspirations towards a better, independent life.

❓ What is the meaning behind The Story of an Hour?

Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour analysis illustrates that the author’s message behind it tries to tell us how the society of that time was unfair towards women. It also shows the delicate and complicated inner world of a woman.

❓ What does The Story of an Hour critique?

The Story of an Hour criticizes the typical experience of marriage in the 1890s. For women, such marriage was repressive and meant their loss of personal freedoms. Therefore, the story criticizes the society of that time dominated by men.

❓ How do you start a critical analysis of The Story of an Hour?

Start your analysis of The Story of an Hour with a short introduction. Remember to say a few words about its author and their life. Also, talk about the story and let the reader know what it is about.

❓ What are the two main themes in The Story of an Hour?

Firstly, the theme of a female search for self-identity is represented strongly in the story. The reader sees it in the way Mrs. Mallard’s reaction towards her husband’s death shifts. As a result, the second theme of repressive marriage.