The Story of an Hour Essay: Summary & Analysis
The Story of an Hour is a short story by Kate Chopin. The most interesting thing about this short story is that it was considered controversial at the time when it was published, and the reason was that this story revolved around a female protagonist who lost her husband and was relieved by this. The following essay will focus on the analysis of the plot, and it will also consider Mrs. Mallard, the main character.
Kate Chopin is an American writer that has created many beautiful narratives about the lives of brave and strong women. Many of her short stories, including The Story of an Hour, as well as her novel “The Awakening” have been published in many countries and earned her the status of one of the best writers in the U.S.
The Story of an Hour was created back in 1984. This story is about Louise Mallard who thought that she lost her husband in an accident. The main character starts to reevaluate her life and needs to cope with many conflicting emotions but then finds out that her husband is alive. This essay will focus on the development of the protagonist and the key events of the plot.
The Story of an Hour: Summary
The protagonist had suffered from heart disease for many years so her relatives and friends thought that they needed to protect her from stress. After people thought that Brently Mallard, the protagonist’s husband, died in a terrible railroad accident, his friend shares the news with others. Louise’s sister, Josephine, tells her the news.
Josephine tried to be careful because of Louise’s heart problems. She was afraid that her sister could have a heart attack because of what happened to her husband so she decided to plan how she was going to tell everything that happened. Her plan went smoothly so her sister only whipped a little and didn’t act like many women act in such a situation. She wasn’t helpless, and she didn’t perceive her husband’s death as the worst loss in her life. However, once she cried because she suddenly felt abandoned (Woodlief 2).
After this, Mrs. Mallard started to think of how she could survive without Brently. She wanted to process her husband’s death so she locked herself and spent some time alone. She was very close with her husband so she mourned him and felt devastated. However, she wasn’t completely alone in her grief, as Mr. Richard, her husband’s friend, and Josephine also mourned her loss.
Grief didn’t consume Mrs. Mallard. When she was sitting alone in her room, she started to contemplate her fate and at some point, she realized that this part of her life will actually be better. The loss of her husband also opened possibilities that she wouldn’t consider while he had been alive. After he died, she could just live as she wanted and do what she desired.
After a while, Josephine joins her sister in her room, and Mrs. Mallard sees her sister’s tears of joy. Both sisters walk down the stairs and see Mr. Mallard, who doesn’t understand what’s going on and why Josephine cries. Mr. Mallard wasn’t in the accident. His wife is so shocked that she can’t cope with her feelings and emotions. Her heart stops and she dies after seeing her husband alive.
The Story of an Hour: Literary Analysis
One of the main topics of this short story is health. The story starts with the author bringing up the main character’s health condition, and this problem also influences Josephine’s behavior. Being afraid that her sister’s heart might stop, Josephine plans how she will tell the bad news, and she expects a very painful reaction from her sister. However, Mrs. Mallard reacts much better than her sister expected.
This story focuses on the concept of marriage and the role of femininity in it. Therefore, if we want to uncover the author’s main message, we need to dedicate enough attention to the analysis of this topic in the story. The author shows that men play a dominant role in a marriage. For instance, Mrs. Mallard was only happy with her husband from time to time because he wasn’t really concerned about the way she wanted to be treated. Louise has spent many years doing whatever her husband wanted and prioritizing his needs while ignoring things that were important for her. After Louise receives the bad news, she feels relieved. At some point, it seems like she doesn’t even care about what happened to her husband.
Mr. Mallard’s death impacts Louise in different ways and her reaction is quite complex. At first, she’s devastated because she’s afraid of being lonely and she struggles to imagine what her future will look like. Nevertheless, Louise realizes that she can still be happy, even without her husband. Louise understands that her marriage wasn’t perfect and that she deserved better treatment. Her marriage didn’t depend on her will, and her wishes didn’t matter at all. On the one hand, Louise is sad because her husband lost his life. On the other hand, she isn’t going to miss their life as a couple. She realizes that she’s been living for another person for a long time, and now his sudden death gives her an opportunity to start living for herself.
Everything that surrounds Mrs. Mallard, including the objects in the room, symbolizes freedom. When Mrs. Mallard looks through the window, she sees the tops of trees, she breathes in the rainy smell of streets, she looks at the blue islands of clear sky among clouds (Woodlief 1). The open window is a simple metaphor. It symbolizes the opportunities that become available for Mrs. Mallard. When She looks through the window, she realizes that nothing stops her from living her life the way she wants.
This short story perfectly illustrates the marginalization of women. The traditional society encourages women to pursue safety and wealth through marriage, and it doesn’t put freedom on the list of priorities for women. When Louise suddenly feels freedom, she keeps her thoughts inside, sitting in the room, until her sister arrives. After her husband reappears alive, Louise immediately realizes that all the new opportunities are lost again, and there will be no new chapter in her life. While Louise wasn’t destroyed by her husband’s death, seeing him alive is exactly what kills her.
One of the important ingredients of this story is the author’s irony. She says that her main character died “of the joy that kills.” Such irony shouldn’t surprise the reader, as Louise is a woman who wants to be independent, and the death of her husband would give her exactly that.
The Story of an Hour illustrates the marginalization of women and the lack of freedom caused by the traditional society where a woman depends on her husband. Louise loses her freedom without even being able to use it as soon as her husband appears alive, and he dies, unable to deal with such a turn of events. Her sudden death just concludes her long life where she wasn’t free.
- Chopin, Kate. The Story of an hour. The Kate Chopin International Society. Web.
- Woodlief, Ann. The Story of an Hour. 2011, Virginia Commonwealth University. Web.