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“The Story of an Hour” novel by Chopin is recognized as a masterpiece of short fiction, reflecting on complicated self-discovery mechanisms. In the novel, Mrs. Mallard, the main character, learns about the death of her husband, who was riding on the train that crashed. However, a strange feeling quickly replaces the first reaction of genuine grief. Unexpectedly, she feels a sense of joy and happiness in anticipation of a free life. An hour later, her husband returns home, and Mrs. Mallard dies as doctors ascertain “of joy that kills” (Chopin, 1984, para. 20). In this context, the last words sound especially ambiguous. On the one hand, it seems that Mrs. Mallard’s words mean real happiness that her husband is alive. On the other hand, it becomes evident that she dies from newly lost freedom. Thus, the plot of the novel is thought-provoking yet does not provide a definite answer, following the rules of an open-ended story.
Personally, I tend to consider that this story is quite interesting and believable as it focuses on real events and people, showing their usual emotions and feelings. In other words, the novel reveals key human features that can be observed in any family. It should be stressed that the story takes place in one house for one hour. Also, “delicious breath of rain” represents the relief of the main character (Chopin, 1984, para. 5). Therefore, the setting helps to create tension and an atmosphere of expectation, creating a mixture of controversial emotions.
Themes and Tone
The key purpose of the story is to bring awareness to an issue that a human being is born to be free. Living with the husband that behaves like a tyrant, Mrs. Mallard suffered a lot, and finally, she feels the freedom of which she even could not imagine before. The author shows that independence is an integral part of a person. Also, a range of other themes is conveyed in the novel. For example, the theme of the inherent oppressiveness of marriage is represented through the fact that the main character understands that her husband oppressed her as well as she humiliated him (Toth, 2009). In particular, the following statement proves the above idea: “blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin, 1984, para. 13). Furthermore, the theme of death impacted me, as well. Death acts as a powerful factor, making Mrs. Mallard reflect on her beloved one that is dead (Wan, 2009). Even the news of a death can cause tragedy and be lethal.
In my opinion, the main character is represented perfectly as she integrates complex feelings that display her personality. In the beginning, she experiences some feeling that was too “subtle and elusive to name” (Chopin, 1984, para. 9). However, after learning herself, Louise Mallard understands that she finally acquired self-assertion that seems to be the main impetus to her renewed life. It should be emphasized that she does not lie or hide her emotions, dramatically crying, and joyfully accepting her new life.
It seems that Brently Mallard is depicted insufficiently as a reader only knows that he is a husband who travels somewhere outside. Nevertheless, the image of this character is revealed through the words of his wife, who repeatedly mentions him as an oppressor. Mrs. Mallard’s sister Josephine is another female character whose fate is to care about others. Also, the family friend Richard is noted by Chopin in the role of a messenger who informs about tragedy (Esstman, 2014). These two characters are introduced to enhance and extend the story, making it closer to real life.
In this novel, the author uses a specific structural technique to enlarge the duration of an hour. The length of sentences throughout the story is short and sometimes ambiguous. The sentences are formed in short paragraphs that usually contain 2-3 sentences. This technique helps a reader to penetrate into the inner world of the main character by reading her dense thoughts. Thus, the novel is written easily and quickly, but it made a huge impact on me. Chopin shocks a reader twice: at the beginning of the story and at the end, thus steadily intensifying the narration. At the same time, every sentence is complete and important (Emmert, 2009). Considering that such a form assumes no background information, the author succeeds in creating the story that is full of metaphors and epithets. For example, the following epithets help to reveal the authors’ messages and, what is also essential, those of the main character: “a dull stare,” “a powerful will,” and “a monstrous joy” (Chopin, 1984, para. 12).
The composition of the novel, including images, landscape sketches, the logic of details, comparisons, and epithets, is devoted to the expression of the author’s main idea. The outlook of the author contains a desire to poeticize a woman’s inclination to spiritual independence and, at the same time, an ironic realization of the original failure of this attempt.
Chopin, K. (1984). The Story of An Hour. Web.
Emmert, S. (2009). Naturalism and the short story form in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour’. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Esstman, B. (2014). The Story Hour. Web.
Toth, E. (2009). Unveiling Kate Chopin. Jackson, LA: University of Missisipi Press.
Wan, X. (2009). Kate Chopin’s view on death and freedom in ‘The Story of an Hour’. English Language Teaching, 2(4), pp. 167-170.