English / 'The Story Of An Hour' By Kate Chopin

'The Story Of An Hour' By Kate Chopin

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Autor:  anton  26 November 2010
Tags:  Chopin
Words: 846   |   Pages: 4
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In ‘The Story of an Hour’, Kate Chopin creates a character that changes from “a woman afflicted with a heart trouble” to “a goddess of Victory.” It is in her own use of language- imagery, symbolism, and descriptive details- that Chopin illustrates the profound changes in Mrs. Mallard.

The plot takes place mainly in the mind of Mrs. Mallard, which makes it necessary that the reader understands her personality and where thoughts are derived from. First, Mrs. Mallard is described as having “a heart trouble.” This is important because it explains why her sister took great care to break the news to her. She is also described as being “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength”. This is significant information in understanding why she grieves only momentarily. Mrs. Mallard’s marriage did not allow her to express herself. She was never allowed to show her emotions, or to show or use her true strength, but instead had to repress them. As the feeling of freedom sets in her mind she begins to describe herself as a “goddess of Victory.” Mrs. Mallard began, for the first time in her marriage, to feel beautiful and charming. In the story, she gets her first chance to show off her newfound strength and beauty when she lets her sister in to see the “triumph in her eyes”. Chopin writes, “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which 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….” This is the only glimpse that the reader gets into Bentley Mallard’s character.

Mrs. Mallard’s transformation is almost entirely internal. The only external evidence of her changes is the whispered yells, “Free! Body and soul free!” The statements themselves are powerful, however, their external appearance is limited to the “whispering” of short phrases, indicating the large burden of established social rules on Mrs. Mallard, and how those rules restrict her expression. Chopin also uses a wide variety of descriptive words to bring to life the feelings that Mrs. Mallard is having about the death of her husband. Examples of this are seen throughout the text: “new spring life”; “delicious breath of air”; “blue sky showing through the clouds”; “drinking in a very elixir of life”; “summer days.” Chopin also uses the metaphor of an open window that Mrs. Mallard sits in front of during the rise of the plot. The window is not just part of the setting, but a window into the heart and mind of the protagonist. Mrs. Mallard seems able to reach out through the window with her senses even though she cannot physically exit. It was her access to new life and new hopes of the future without Brently’s overpowering will on her.

Chopin uses irony to bring surprise to the climax, as well as to enhance the intensity of the story. One example of irony is that Brentley’s friend, Richard, takes the time to confirm his name with a second telegram, and then at the end of the story it turns out that he is not even involved in the accident. Another example of irony is this: “Her pulse beat fast, and then the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” In this sentence it is ironic that it was blood, which symbolizes life, that was giving her energy, and then at the end she dies. In addition, the reader is faced with another use of irony in this short story, and that is the use of the word ‘joy’. It is first used in Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts as a “monstrous joy” of being free from bondage, and tasting the “elixir of life” that is so valuable to her. Secondly, the doctors in the last line who directly state that she died “of heart disease—of joy that kills.” It is ironic that it was not joy of seeing Mr. Mallard alive that killed her, but of the terrible loss that she would never feel the tremendous joy she had felt before. It also depicts the males as determining the lives of women.

"The Story of an Hour", written in the late 18th Century, is a dramatic example of a woman who suddenly discovers her freedom from the repression of her marriage. Chopin deeply portrays the low position of a wife in a suppressive marriage of that time. The effect of this short story is to emphasize that a woman's success can be based on her own merits and that women can appreciate the long struggle for freedom made by women of the past. Chopin uses descriptive imagery, elements of suspense, and irony to keep the reader's interest and at the same time provide further thought on the matter of the repression of women.

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