The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin | Characters, Summary, Analysis, Setting, Theme

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin | Characters, Summary, Analysis, Setting, Theme

The Story of an Hour Short Story


The Story of an Hour is a phenomenal American short story written by Kate Chopin on April 19, 1894, and published in Vogue on December to 1894. Initially, it was written and first published under the title “The Dream of an Hour“. It was reprinted in St. Louis Life on January 5, 1895.

The title of the short story refers to the time elapsed between the moments at which the protagonist, Louis Mallard, hears that her husband is dead and discovers that he is alive after all. The Story of an Hour was considered controversial during the 1898-s because it deals with a female protagonist who feels liberated by the news of her husband’s death. In Unveiling Kate Chopin, Emile Toth argues that Chopin “had to have her heroine die” in order to make the story publishable.

The Story of an Hour Setting

The Story of an Hour has been strongly linked with the ideals of the women’s liberation movement of the 1960’s when feminists took a stand to fight to give women more freedom in America. The reason “The Story of an Hour” was an important piece of literary work at this time was because of its radical story. In the story, this housewife who has been confined to the social norms of the obedient wife, has an unorthodox reaction to the death of her husband she anticipates her newfound freedom from the suppression of the husband, of men and becomes invigorated by it. This idea is one of the key values of the bus The Story of an Hour” was an important work to show a woman’s break from the norm of society.

Marriage Vs Freedom Theme

The idea of Marriage Vs. Freedom is a growing theme in modern American Women Writing during Kate Chopin’s time. The idea that women can look beyond marriage as their lifelong goal to achieve is a teetering idea for women seeking independence.

Mrs. Mallard believes that both women and men limit each other in matrimony. She does not express any apparent ill-will against Mr. Mallard and has even admitted to loving him at some points. Due to its structure as telling the situation within an hour’s time, no background information is given about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s relationship. This is an effective style that Chopin utilizes. The story is not about the husband being abusive to his wife or vice-versa. Instead, it focuses on the individual’s inner desires for freedom. The point of view of The Story of an Hour is that of the wife. Louise’s desire for freedom far exceeds her love for him a controversial idea that goes against the norms of society. She would rather live freely than be in a marriage that subjects her to domesticity. “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 follow-creature”.

The Story of an Hour Summary

The short story describes the series of emotions Louis Mallard endures after hearing of the death of her husband, who was believed to have died in a railroad disaster. Mrs. Mallard suffers from heart problems and therefore her sister attempts to inform her of the horrific news in a gentle way. Mrs. Mallard locks herself in her room to immediately mourn the loss of her husband. However, she begins to feel on unexpected sense of exhilaration. “Free ! Body and soul free !” is what she believes is a benefit of his death. At the end of the story, it is made known that her husband was not involved in the railroad disaster and upon his return home Mrs. Mallard suddenly dies. The cause of her death is ambiguous and left for analysis as it can range from her known heart problems to psychological factors. We can ask ourselves if the real reason for the death was known that she would not be free after she sees that her husband isn’t really dead.

The Story of an Hour Characters

  1. Mrs. Louise Mallard

Mrs. Louise Mallard is the protagonist of the story. Si introduced as being “afflicted with a heart trouble”, which is who great care is taken in telling her of her husband’s death. She mour her husband, but then begins to feel relieved and liberated.

  1. Mr. Brently Mallard

Mr. Brently Mallard is the husband of Louise Mallard. He is assumed dead until the end of the story when it is revealed that the news of his death was a mistake. While we do not really meet him or learn much about him, it is assumed he is the typical husband of the time period. He is out working and travelling, with his wife home caring for his home.

  1. Mushephine

Mushephine is Louise’s sister who tells Louise of her husband’s death. She embodies the feminine ideals of the time, acting as the picture perfect wife figure. She is overly concerned about her sister because according to the standards of the time, she feels this should ruin her world. Through her, we see the norms of the time period contrasted to the rebellious reaction of Louise.

  1. Richards

Richards is Mr. Mallard’s friend and is the first person to hear of Brently’s death, coming over to inform Louise safely. He represents the standard image and expectations of the man during the time period responsible for protecting women. However, he fails which could have been a bit controversial for the time period.

The Story of an Hour Analysis

Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour falls on ironically detached and melancholy tone. The unrecognized unspoken unhappiness that seems to rule Louise Mallard life is realized only upon word of her husband’s demise, and swiftly taken away again at his revival”. The story comes off as subtly cruelled in that Louise’s reaction to the death of her husband was not one of sadness from loss to rather a bitter joy she feels when she comes to the understand that she is now free from the shackles of marriage, his perceived death representing freedom and independence from the role she is forever bound to do.

Meanwhile the people around her think she’s crying her eyes out over her dead husband. Really, though, she’s relieved to be free. No one understands her. At the end of the story, the doctors agree that she must have died from a sudden shock of extreme happiness from finding out that her husband lived after all. The story gives readers an almost out-of-body experience of the protagonist, Louise and rather than sentimental, the story takes on the approach of revolutionary in a way into new perspectives that much of society at the time did not believe.

In her article, “Emotions in ‘The story of An Hour’,” Jamil argues that Chopin portrays Mrs. Mallard’s perception of her husband’s supposed death as fostered by emotions, rather than by rationality. Tamil claims that up until that point, Mrs. Mallard’s life had been devoid of emotion to such an extent that she has even wondered if it is worth living. The repression of emotion may represent Mrs. Mallard’s repressive husband, who had, up until that point, “smothered and “silenced her will. Therefore, her newfound freedom is brought on by an influx of emotion (representing the death of the figure of the repressive husband) that adds meaning and value to her life. For, though Mrs. Mallard initially feels fear when she hears of her husband’s death the strength of the emotion is so powerful that Mrs. Mallard actually feels joy (because she is feeling). Since this “joy that kills” ultimately leads to Mrs. Mallard’s death, one possible interpretation is that the repression of Mrs. Mallard’s feeling is what killed her in the end.

In the same article, Jamil shows that Mrs. Mallard faces as a wife. She realizes how after her husband’s apparent death that she was “free, free, free”. This shows how her life would change and that she is now a new person and removed from the repressed life she faced before. No evidence is given in the story about how she is repressed, but her reaction of his death and her new found confidence and freedom is enough. This repression of herself that she dealt with has now been removed and enabled her to be free.

Mrs. Mallard’s character shows no emotion until she hears that her husband has died ; in fact, her ‘heart trouble’ is more than physical issue, but rather more of an emotional concern. Similarly, by using her five senses, Louise familiarizes with how nature smells, sounds etc. As well, her emotions create a harmony between her senses (body) and her own self (soul). The season of spring is a time of rebirth, where plants grow and develop; Louise is reborn, has a new energy, and new perspectives on life. Louise envisions herself as a free woman now that her husband has tragically died. She can now live for herself and nobody else. In the end, the build up of emotion creates an overexcitement for Louise which takes a toll on her heart condition, because, Mrs. Mallard was able to branch out of her comfort zone and physically and emotionally experience the world, she has finally discovered who she is.

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