“The Story of An Hour” Kate Chopin (1894) – Main Theme

Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” brings about a form of a distinctive approach to love through the life, experiences, and perceptions of Mrs Mallard towards the news about the death of her husband. Chopin uses the drama surrounding the alleged death of Mr. Mallard and the process of relaying the news to her wife who has a heart trouble to enrichen her narration style further. Furthermore, Chopin employs various stylistic devices like symbolism, themes, and motifs to bring about divergent opinions and perceptions concerning the events surrounding the fake death report of Mr Mallard. Through Chopin’s explanation, Mrs Mallard learns of the possibility of a new life even though she is saddened by the death of her husband, whom she loved dearly. The narrator uses literal elements like themes, symbolism, and motifs to bring about a new discernment of Mrs Mallard’s thoughts, preceded by her untimely death at the end of the story.

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The central theme that Kate Chop uses in “The story of an hour” is that of prohibited independence among the women in the story (Holt, Rinehart and Winston 2). Even though Louise’s response towards the death of her husband is vehement, unlike the other women, she further finds comfort and solace in the midst of solitude. Chopin states that “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully,” an indication that despite the feeling of freedom and independence creeping all over Louise while in solitude, she fought hard to suppress the feelings as they were forbidden. Even though Louise avoids the thoughts of freedom, she cannot help it to the extent that her lips utter the words, “free! Free! Free!” Louise is paranoid about her newly found refuge as she imagines that society will never come to terms with her newfound freedom. However, Louise is overwhelmed by the joy of the forbidden freedom to the extent that even prayer does not stop her from contemplating a free life, one which she can take full charge of. Upon the return of Brently, the freedom that Louise had acquired temporarily was suddenly yanked away from her just as swiftly as it had been given to her. The sudden shift of events from extreme happiness and unending independence to that of suppression and the lack of freedom was enough to kill Louise as she finally succumbed to the mixed reactions of joy and sadness upon seeing her husband alive.

According to Holt, Rinehart and Winston (2), Chopin states that “Knowing that Mrs Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” In this perspective, the narrator uses heart trouble both symbolically and in the real perspective. Louise’s heart trouble symbolises the struggle and ambivalence that she has towards her marriage and love life. The narrator is also systematic and particular in the sense that she decides to cast the information about the heart trouble from the onset of the story. It is, however, apparent that a person with a heart problem cannot handle news concerning the decease of a loved one as calmly as Louise had. When Louise learns of the death of her husband, she feels a certain inner joy that she tries to conceal from herself and the others. At the end of the story, even though it is stated that the cause of her death was overwhelming joy, it is a sadness that led to Louise’s succumbing.

In the story, Chopin explains that “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair.” From the open window, Louise saw trees, felt the fresh breath of rain, heard people singing, and even saw the patches of the blue sky. The window symbolises the new life that had suddenly opened for Louise (Holt, Rinehart and Winston 2). The new life had so much to offer with a lot of freedom and new beginnings, as evidenced by the phrase, “…the new spring of life.” Louise had a view of the vast stretch of land that lay ahead, which is her future from the window. However, upon turning away from the window, she suddenly once more let go of her freedom.

One motif that Chopin uses is weeping, which seems to be a part of Louise’s life. Louise first cries upon receiving the news about Brently’s death. She continues to cry subconsciously while in her room. In Louise’s imagination, the last time she would cry would be at Brently’s funeral service (Holt, Rinehart and Winston 2). In her imaginations after the funeral, Louise pictures herself happy and free from sorrow and suppression. Louise knows that by being with Brently, she shall forever forfeit her freedom as a sacrifice for love. However, she desires to be free much more than being in love with Brently. The tears that Louise sheds are tears of joy that symbolise her new beginnings. She even imagines that the last time she would have to shed tears for Brently would be in his funeral service; thereafter, there are no tears mentioned.

In “The story of an hour,” Kate Chopin brings forth a broader perspective of a seemingly simple incidence of an “oppressed” wife. Chopin manages to take the story to a different level through the use of different stylistic devices like themes, symbolism, and motifs. The literal elements help reinforce and bring out the individual attributes, such as happiness, pain, and anguish of the characters, which include the Mallards.


Works cited

Holt, Rinehart and Winston. The Story of an Hour: Kate Chopin. (1894). Retrieved from https://my.hrw.com/support/hos/hostpdf/host_text_219.pdf