Literary Research on The story of an hour
Conduct a Literary Research on The story of an hour
Literary Research on the Story of an Hour
In one of the most impressive and thought-provoking literary works in the world of literature, Kate Chopin (1981) touches the readers minds, feelings, and emotions while driving a thought that is somewhat difficult to talk about in a normal setting. In this literary short story that is her masterpiece, Chopin illustrates deep meaning and sense in everything that happens in the life of the main character. In the short story, the author explores the obscured concepts of freedom, death, grief, and marriage in a manner that would make every of her reader tick and only want to read again. This paper critically assesses The Story of an Hour in order to reveal such hidden themes and thoughts. In doing so, the paper does a summary of the short story, mentions a few of the characters, and highlights major themes tackled in the short story.
As the story begins, we are introduced to a Mrs. Mallard, who is afflicted with heart trouble. Her husband’s friend, Richards, works at a local train station and receives the first news that the train had a fatal accident and among the names that comes back as dead (the first one actually) is Mr. Mallard’s. Interesting enough, he decides to wait a little and confirm the news before delivering. This is ironic as the news is confirmed twice yet it turns out to be false at the end. While delivering the news, her sister – Josephine – and Richards ‘gently’ delivers it in order to protect her heart and feelings. They say it in a way as to almost protect Mrs. Mallard from the same news that she is supposed to hear. Now, according to the story, Mrs. Mallard really loved her husband – and the husband really loved her as well. For this reason, it was reasonable that the news would destroy her, especially as she also had a heart problem.
After she received the news, she cried so had and even went and locked herself in her room, nobody to follow her. It was clear that she processed the news far too hard. However, while in her room, she discovers something that is both unsettling yet interesting. Through the death of her husband, she would be a free woman, free from the bondage of marriage. At this point, all her grief went away as she shouted “free!” On the thought of this, she decides to leave her room and go downstairs where her sister and Richards was. However, while she walked down the stairs, her husband, Mr. Mallard, opened the door. Richards – seeing this and realizing the shock it might have on her – tries to block Mr. Mallard from Mrs. Mallard. However, he is too late as Mrs. Mallard sees her husband and collapses immediately. Later, the doctors claims that she died of the heart problem; of the ‘joy that kills.’
Mrs. Mallard (Louise) is the wife of Brently Mallard. She is the main character in The Story of an Hour and the short story revolves around her. She has a heart problem and doctors have recommended that she does not receive shocking news abruptly. Her husband is pronounced dead in a railroad accident. After receiving the news, she grieves dearly for her husband but later overjoyed at the freedom she would have as a single woman.
Brently Mallard, husband to the main character, has only been mentioned a few times. He is thought to be dead in the railroad accident and this news comes as a shock to his friends and family. He is said to have loved his wife and always treated her well. He does not know of the news of his death and comes back home in his usual time, which ends up killing his wife, with joy.
Josephine is the sister to Louise Mallard. She understands the heart condition of her sister and helps to console her at the death of her husband after informing her of it. Richards is a friend to Brently Mallard and is the first one to learn of the news of Mr. Mallard’s death. He holds on to the news and confirms the news for a second time before deciding to deliver the same news. He seems to be a careful man as he tells the news to Mrs. Mallard. He also tries to hide Mr. Mallard from Mrs. Mallard at the end, to no avail.
Death and Grief
The Story of an Hour revolves around the death of Mr. Mallard, who is reported to have died from a railroad accident. In the story, death seem to be one of the shocking news that Mrs. Mallard is not supposed to receive. By doing this, the author manages to showcase several issues with the actual world. In the real world, death and grief is a usually difficult topic to discuss. However, Chopin directly addresses it in an interesting manner, questioning the reception of the same news. After receiving the blow, as expected, Mrs. Mallard grieves immensely at the death of her husband, which is fostered by emotions (Jamil 215). She cries hard and even locks herself in her room and asks that nobody follows her. In the minds of the readers, a terrible situation is expected to happen from this situation. In most cases, or at least in the real world, many people who receive such news of death in a similar manner often end up locking themselves and doing something bad to themselves. This is critiqued and challenged by Chopin. By talking about death, she reveals the nature of human beings, especially those unable to process the same information. Grief, as depicted in the story, is expected but should never be the reason for isolation and even for the infliction of harm on oneself.
Marriage, in The Story of an Hour, is interestingly revealed in a manner that questions the ideals of the construct. From the story, Mrs. Mallard has a happy marriage as she loves her husband. Similarly, Mr. Mallard is said to love his wife dearly and in every manner. While this is the ideal dream of every woman, to be happy in marriage, the same concept is critiqued and thoroughly questioned. Not so much about the said marriage has been revealed but only the fact that they both dearly loved each other. However, love is not the only fuel in the fire of marriage. While she was happily married, she later claims that the death of her husband would render her ‘free.’ This makes the reader question a lot. Was she free in marriage? Was she under bondage from the same marriage? What it is that she could not do in marriage that made her so happy knowing that she could do them? Was she really happy after all? While these questions remain unanswered, they are critically lodged to the minds of the reader who ought to ask themselves the same questions in their expectations of marriage. Ultimately, Mrs. Mallard, questions the meaning of love as she later rejects it to be meaningless (Bender 460). As Foote (87) reveals, it was almost as if the time she spent alone made her distance herself from her husband and want her freedom even more.
Freedom as a Sense of Life
The idea of freedom is critical in The Story of an Hour. After going to her room, the author introduces the symbols of security and life into the minds of the readers. For one, she claims that she sees a ‘comfortable, roomy armchair and the open window,’ all of which adds to her betterment. Furthermore, she feels a ‘delicious breath of rain’ in the air as ‘countless sparrows were twittering’ in the air. These almost dreamy effects of the story are introduced as the main character mourns her husband. Had she only realized this? Were all these, ever present, only revealed to her at the death of her husband? In that regard, these symbolizes her freedom and her realization of the same. All this while, when Mrs. Mallard realizes this, her hearts fills with joy of freedom; the freedom that is embedded in everything – in the sounds of the birds, in the blue sky, and in the beautiful trees around. Realizing this, grief turns to happiness and her heart leaps in joy as this brings her physical and intellectual pleasure (Tseng 29). However, she realizes that the society would deem her feelings and thoughts to be inappropriate. Nonetheless, the author institutes that a calm and free soul is more important that what the society thinks. This sense of freedom is revealed to be in the innate nature of life itself.
In conclusion, it is evident that The Story of an Hour is one short story that questions the society and its standards in an interesting manner. In every way possible, the story illustrates how various concepts in the society are flawed, even when they look to be in the standards set by the said society. The author explores the idea of death and grief, marriage, and freedom in a manner as to question each of them. Is marriage what it seems to be? While Mrs. Mallard’s marriage is said to be a happy one, the death of her husband only makes her realizes her freedom and her happiness that stems from the same freedom. While all the topics in the short story are unthought of, they reveal the flaws in the thoughts and ideas that are embedded in the society today.
Bender, Bert. “The Teeth of Desire: The Awakening and The Descent of Man.” American Literature 63.3 (1991): 459-473.
Chopin, Kate. The story of an hour. Jimcin Recordings, 1981.
Foote, Jeremy. “Speed That Kills: The Role of Technology in Kate Chopin’s THE STORY OF AN HOUR.” The Explicator 71.2 (2013): 85-89.
Jamil, S. Selina. “Emotions in the Story of an Hour.” The Explicator 67.3 (2009): 215-220.
Tseng, Chia-Chieh. “Joy That Kills”: Female Jouissance in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” Short Story Journal (2016).