Literary Analysis: The Story of an Hour
Literary Analysis: The Story of an Hour
The Story of an Hour Analysis: Introduction
This is the story of a woman who appears lively than ever when she thinks her husband is dead and dies when she learns that he is alive. Kate Chopin's (1894) The Story of an Hour gives insights about life and death, marriage and more by using significant literary devices and symbols. This paper analyses the story in every aspect to explain its plot structure, characters, theme, and symbols. Through the main character Louise Mallard's exaggerated and somewhat cruel response to her husband's assumed death and "resurrection", Kate Chopin depicts the limitations of the marriage institution and the domestic sphere's imprisonment for women in 1890s America.
First, we will take a look at our characters. Our main character, Louise Maillard, is a woman with heart disease. She thinks differently of women's place in the social structure in 1890s America. She also disagrees with the marriage institution. She believes that the relationship between a woman and a man is based on restricting one another. However, she doesn't reveal these thoughts. She pretends like she doesn't have any problem with her societal role. When she was informed that her husband is dead, she acts accordingly, thinking how every woman would act. She immediately takes the position of a devastated person, jumping into her sister’s arm. Her later reaction was acting like a newborn when she was alone, speaking to herself how free she is now. These explicit reactions show us she is hysterical and a very emotional person. At the end of the story, this deduction reveals itself when she dies as a result of her feelings.
Our side characters consist of Brent Maillard, the husband of Louise. Although Louise tells us that they loved each other and Brent always cared for her, his marriage institution position makes him an "oppressor" for her. Josephine, who tells Louise that her husband died and who is her sister. Lastly, Richards, a friend of Brent, also first saw the news about the train accident.
Secondly, we will explain the plot structure and the style used by Chopin. As its name implies, this story tells an hour of the main character Louise Maillard's life. Accordingly, Chopin preferred short paragraphs as the story itself is less than three pages. However, this exact reason makes this story incredibly dense. Because the reader doesn't know anything about any part of the story, every sentence gains importance and have to be read and interpreted carefully. The author's short and compact style also makes the reader sense the emotionally overwhelmed Louise Maillard's feelings.
At the beginning of the story, Chopin presents exposition, as Louise is lying on her bed alongside her sister, Josephine, who is worried about the devastating news about Louise's husband. Our rising action is where Richards and Josephine reveal the terrible news to Louise. Most of the readers think that Louise will cry and be devastated, Chopin shows the story's climax. Mrs Maillard realizes that she is free now that her husband is dead. She screams happily through her window that she is "Free, free, free!" (Chopin para. 11). We understand that her soul starts to fill with the happiness of freedom (Dagenhart para. 6). The writing style also changes. In the part where she is filled with joy, Chopin favoured positive words such as the blue sky or keen and bright. Susana comments, "the scene is full of energy and hope" (para. 4).
The story's falling action is the point where Mr Maillard is back from his trip, thinking how strange everyone looks so shocked. And the resolution is right after that, where Mrs Maillard falls dead on the ground. Doctors said she died of "joy"; however, in reality, her death resulted from her realization that the freedom she so eagerly wanted was never actually belonged to her.
The themes of the story are the hindered joy of freedom and the oppressive nature of marriage institution. When Louise learns that her husband died, she doesn't think about crying even though she loves him. She knows that she will weep and mourn later, but the joy of being independent overwhelms her. After that, she is shattered by seeing her husband before her. The story prominently emphasizes the dependent nature of marriage. For Louise to be free, the only way to be a widow because society didn't appreciate divorced women (Dagenhart para. 9). When she thought she is a widow, she prays to live a long life, where before, she complained that she would have a long life. This story revolves around this theme as Louise felt happier than ever when she thought the chains were gone.
Last but not least, we will have a look at the symbols that Chopin used. First, the heart disease of Louise indicates both physical and mental condition. She is overwhelmed and oppressed by her marriage; therefore, when she learns that her husband is dead, he can walk and run and scream like she never even had heart disease. This signifies that her burden is gone. Also, the open window represents the free and independent life Louise has in front of her. It can be interpreted as the open window is the future of Louise.
The Story of an Hour: Conclusion
In conclusion, Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour tells the story of an oppressed woman under the marriage constitution. The oppression enables one to feel joy when the main character Louise's husband dies. This story is exciting and dense. To explain further, this paper analyzed the characters one by one, broke down the story's plot structure, pointed its themes and finally described given symbols in the story. Kate Chopin portrays the marriage's restraints and the oppressiveness of the domestic realm for women in 1890s America using the lead character Louise Mallard's embellished and cruel reaction to her husband's supposed death and his "revival."
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. , Vogue, 6 Dec. 1894.
Dagenhart, Natalia. "Literary Analysis of 'the Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin." Natalia Dagenhart Website, 13 Sept. 2017.
Susana, Catherine. "Analysis of 'the Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin." ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 19 Mar. 2014, www.thoughtco.com/analysis-story-of-an-hour-2990475. Accessed 8 Apr. 2021.