In-depth analysis of some of the most popular short stories including summaries, character analysis, narrative technique, symbolism and much more.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Story of An Hour Analysis

The Story of an Hour Analysis, The Story of an Hour Setting, The Story of an Hour Irony, the story of an hour Summary
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The Story of an Hour Summary

Due to Mrs Mallard's heart condition, Josephine her sister, is cautious in informing her of husband's death in a train crash, as confirmed by his friend Richards. Mrs. Mallard reacts by immediately crying, after which she withdraws to a room, and contemplates what his death now means for her. There she sits before an open window, observing the happenings outside, and is soon overcome with an unidentifiable emotion, which she later reluctantly realizes is happiness. Mrs. Mallard reasons that though Mr. Mallard had been a loving husband, one which she would surely mourn, she is also eager for a new life marked by freedom and independence from marriage. Josephine assumes that Mrs. Mallard, distraught over the news, intends to harm herself. Mrs. Mallard assures her that she is fine, and walks with her sister to meet Richards, still downstairs. It is then Mr. Mallard, who is very much alive and had no knowledge the accident took place, opens the door. Mrs. Mallard dies of shock which the doctors mistakenly blames on her being overjoyed at his return.

Title Analysis

"The Story of An Hour" refers to the series of dramatic events that take place in a short period of time. It speaks to everything, from the belief that Mr. Mallard is dead, the anticipation of her new life not characterized by being married, to her eventual death at the realization she is still very much "imprisoned" in her marriage since Mr. Mallard is actually alive.

Character Analysis

Mrs. Louise Mallard

The first thing we learn about Mrs. Mallard is that she has a weak heart. This sets the stage for the idea that she herself is weak, fragile and should be handled gently, attitudes toward women that would have been typical during the Victorian Era. We almost immediately learn, however, that Mrs. Mallard is not the stereotypical Victorian woman. The narrator notes that she did not react to the news of her husband's death as other women would have, she accepts it immediately that her husband is dead. This is later confirmed when within the confines of her own room, she reluctantly expresses joy at the news and her new found independence.
 It is interesting to note that Mrs. Mallard does admit that Mr. Mallard is a loving husband and that she "had loved him". Her discontent therefore stems not from a lack of love, but from her lack of independence in her marriage, something which she herself struggles to acknowledge. Mrs. Mallard evolves from being the fragile housewife, to a woman confronting her true feelings, and looking forward to her life as a free woman.

Mr. Brently Mallard

We are only introduced to Mr. Mallard at the end of the story when his unexpected and shocking entrance later results in the death of Mrs. Mallard. We do know from Mrs. Mallard that, for the most part, Mr. Mallard is a kind and loving husband. Mrs. Mallard states, "[he] never looked save with love upon her", and though described him as having "kind, tender hands". We get the impression, however, that Mr. Mallard did exert some amount of influence on Mrs. Mallard, something which would be expected from a married man at that time. Mrs. Mallard notes that without him, "There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence...fellow-creature." It should be noted, however, that "blind persistence" suggests that Mr. Mallard was not aware of the effects his "powerful will" had on Mrs. Mallard. 


Setting, as with most works by Kate Chopin, is central to the understanding of the short story. "The Story of an Hour" is impacted by the setting in relations to both Time and Place. In regards to Time, the fact that the story is set in the Victorian era gives us an idea of the context within which the events take place. We are able to understand the dynamics that may exist between Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, as well as the reason for her belief that freedom can only exist outside of marriage. 

We are also given a deeper understanding of her emotions, through the vivid description of her surroundings. In regards to Place, the narrator draws attention to the open window, and we get the idea that Mrs. Mallard is actually content with the news, even before Mrs. Mallard herself realizes. We also see this when the narrator describes the "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."
The juxtaposition of her, confined in a room looking outside through an open window, but never actually experiencing the freedom "the open window" presents, foreshadows her death and the fact that she will never be able to attain the freedom she desired.


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The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

The Window

The window symbolizes Mrs. Mallard desire for freedom, and her hope for a transition into a state of  independence. It is through "the open window" that Mrs. Mallard sees "the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring of life." It is through the open window that her life free of the responsibilities of being a wife, a life without Mr. Mallard can be attained. The window therefore functions as a look into the future, and her belief of what life will now look like without her husband.

Heart Troubles

Heart troubles symbolizes the range of emotions Mrs. Mallard experiences from learning of Mr. Mallard's death to her own eventual death. It is first presented as a weakness and a symbol of love, something which is expected of a woman and more importantly of a wife. A transition takes place once Mrs. Mallard enters the confines of the room, and realizes that she is now free from her marriage. Her heart troubles here represent the lack of true love within her marriage, the realization that her heart was not in it, and that her time with Mr. Mallard was more of an obligation or duty as a wife.


Aside, from the setting, irony is one of  the most prominent literary devices used throughout the short story. There are three types of irony which exist in "The Story of an Hour" and they are:

Situational Irony

The revelation that Mr. Mallard is actually alive, and the eventual death of Mrs. Mallard is a form of situational irony. We are lead to believe from the start that Mrs. Mallard will leave the room realizing her dream of freedom and independence. The narrator's mention of the fact that Richards double checks the list to make sure that Mr. Mallard is indeed dead, and the use of the open window to represent her future independence, ensures that the reader never foresees Mrs. Mallard's death.

Dramatic Irony 

Dramatic irony is found when the reader is made aware of Mrs. Mallard's true feelings about Mr. Mallards death, while everyone else, especially Josephine, believes that Mrs. Mallard is actually distraught by the news. Josephine, separated from her sister by a door, believes  that Mrs. Mallard wishes to harm herself over the news. We the readers know, however, that Mrs. Mallard is actually happy and looking forward to the "long years" ahead.

Verbal Irony

The doctor's declaration that Mrs. Mallard "had died of heart disease- of joy that kills", is an example of verbal irony since unbeknownst to everyone there, Mrs. Mallard actually dies from the great disappointment that Mr. Mallard is actually alive.

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