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Analysis of “The Story of an Hour”.

Kate Chopin was an American author of short stories and novels. She is now considered by some to have been a forerunner of feminist authors of the 20th century.

From 1892 to 1895, she wrote short stories for both children and adults which were published in such magazines as Atlantic MonthlyVogue, The Century Magazine, and The Youth's Companion.. Her major works were two short story collections, Bayou Folk (1894) and A Night in Acadie (1897). Her important short stories included "Desiree's Baby", a tale of miscegenation in antebellum Louisiana ,"The Story of an Hour" (1894) and "The Storm "(1898).  Chopin also wrote two novels:  At Fault” (1890) and The Awakening (1899), which are set in New Orleans and Grand Isle, respectively. The people in her stories are usually inhabitants of Louisiana. Many of her works are set in Natchitoches in north central Louisiana.

Within a decade of her death, Chopin was widely recognized as one of the leading writers of her time. In 1915, Fred Lewis Pattee wrote, "some of Chopin's work is equal to the best that has been produced in France or even in America. She displayed what may be described as a native aptitude for narration amounting almost to genius".

“The Story of an Hour” is of social-psychological genre. Here can be pointed out such socials themes as love, marriage and female independence. At the same time it can be considered to be psychological one, as here is shown quite vidly, strikingly the emotions and feelings of the protagonist of this story after learning about a terrible accident that had happened with her husband.

The action of the story takes place in a single hour in an American home in the last decade of the 19th century. Louise Mallard is a young married woman who suffers from heart trouble. Having learnt the news about tragic death of Louse’s husband in a railroad accident, Richards rushes to the Mallards' house, where he and Mrs. Mallard's sister Josephine gently inform Mrs. Mallard of Brently's death. She weeps at once and shows the desire to be left alone.  Mrs. Mallard locks herself in a room, hurls herself into a large chair and gazes out of the window. A strange feeling has overtaken her – the feeling of freedom. She loves her husband but love is nothing to her when it is compared with independence. Josephine asks Mrs. Mallard to let her enter because she is afraid that the grieving widow will make herself ill. The woman goes downstairs with Josephine, when suddenly Brently Mallard comes in the front door, being unaware of the train disaster. Louise cries out. By the time the doctors arrive, she has died of heart disease – of joy that kills.

“The Story of an Hour” is represented in the form of narration with elements of description (such as a comfortable, roomy armchair; quite motionless; she was young, with a fair, calm face and so on) and also with inner speech.

The whole atmosphere of the story is dramatic, but even through this tragedy ironic notes can be pointed out. Ironic is the way Louise treats to the tragic news because the reader expects her to react in an entirely different way, not sitting before the window and pondering over her future life without her husband and about all advantages of independence.

The main theme of this story is the idea of independence and freedom. In “The Story of an Hour,” independence is a forbidden pleasure, it is a thing of what Louise dreams most of all. When the woman learns about her husband’s death, she begins to realize that she is now an independent woman and this realization enlivens and excites her. Extreme circumstances have given Louise a taste of this forbidden fruit, and her thoughts are also extreme and unusual. She sees her life as being absolutely hers and her new independence is the core of this new life. As we know, societyof the 19th century expected women to keep house, cook, bear and rear children and didn’t allow things to go their way. In my opinion, the theme of "The story of an hour" is that women that lived a hundred years ago didn’t feel free. They felt that they weren’t able to do what they wanted to, since their family duties took too much of their time.  So, may be, The Story of an Hour hints that Mrs. Mallard’s husband is a typical husband of his day who dominates his wife and doesn’t let her breath freely.

The woman’s reaction doesn’t suggest any malice, and Louise knows that she’ll cry at Brently’s funeral (She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death) but despite the love between husband and wife, Louise views Brently’s death as a release from oppression – “she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely”.

The main protagonist of “The Story of an Hour” is Louise Mallard, a young married woman who is described as young with a “fair, calm face” with “lines that bespoke repression and even a certain strength.” The lines that “bespoke repression” allow the audience a glimpse of the stress that Mrs. Mallard endured because of her inability to maintain her independence, or to express what she desired. In essence, she was controlled by her husband in almost every respect.  After discovering that her husband has died in a train accident, Mrs. Mallard’s face changes its expression. The epithet “a dull stare in her eyes” speaks of stagnation and routine. During the years that she was married, she became less vivacious and independent. The gaze she owns is “not a glance of reflection, but rather indicates a suspension of intelligent thought”. Mrs. Mallard is not looking to the past, but to the future. Alone in her room, her heart races, and her whole body feels warm. She spreads her arms open, symbolically welcoming her new life. “Free! Body and soul free!” (framing) she repeats to herself, a statement that shows how new independence is important for her.

Very interesting is the role of the “open window” from which Louise gazes for much of the story. To my mind, this open window represents the freedom and opportunities that await her after her husband has died. From the window, Louise sees blue sky, fluffy clouds, and treetops. She hears people and birds singing and smells a coming rainstorm. Everything that she experiences through her senses suggests joy and spring—new life. With the begging of new life the nature around is changing. The epithet “the delicious breath of rain” and hyperbole “countless sparrows” show sudden revival of the whole environment around Louise.

As for the role of the title of the story, it shows us from the very beginning that the whole story will be about the one hour that the woman spends dreaming about her new life in freedom, from getting the incorrect death message until tragically passing away herself.

The use of an omniscient third-person narrator enables Chopin to tell a complete story that's not limited to the protagonist's point of view. This is important because the opening of the story begins with us readers knowing something Mrs. Mallard doesn't, and because the story ends after Mrs. Mallard has already died. If Mrs. Mallard were telling the story in first person, readers would be exposed to a whole different explanation of her weak heart, and the story would end very differently – and somewhat earlier.

The use of third-person omniscient narrative voice also keeps Mrs. Mallard more sympathetic and understandable. The narrator seems to be excusing her behavior and thought process, or at least providing reasoning for it. 

In “The Story of an Hour,” Chopin employs specific stylistic devices, for example: asyndeton sentence “It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing”; detachment “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair”; inversion “Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion”; gradation “Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own” that can be considered to be in the same time a polysyndeton sentence. On the lexical level can be pointed out such devices as metonomy “the list of killed”, extended metaphors: now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously; the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body; she opened her arms out to them in welcome; epithets: a paralysed inability, a feverish triumph in her eyes; simile: like a goddess of Victory, as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been and so on. All of these stylistic devices are used to heighten the drama of story that has happened during only one hour.  The story is short, made up of a series of short paragraphs, many of which consist of just two or three sentences. This story can be read quickly, but the impact it makes is powerful. Chopin surprises us first with Louise’s elated reaction when she first murmurs “free” to herself. She has Louise repeat the word free over and over again as well, which is one of the few words Louise actually speaks aloud in the story and indicates how much she cherishes her newfound freedom. Besides repeating words, Chopin also repeats phrases and sentence structures to highlight important points.

In conclusion, I think that Chopin sent a thorough message by writing this short story. The message saying "try to get enjoy of your life". I also think that's a good statement to live by because Mrs. Mallard seems to be living under constraints that bother her, but doesn’t do anything about it. Mrs. Mallard doesn’t realize that having freedom and having her individual identity is something that you can’t take for granted. Chopin uses the literary terms, symbolism, metaphors, personification, similies and irony to help the reader view and explain the meaning of this bittersweet story.
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