Kate Chopin Analytical Essay - the Story of an Hour

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The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin is a short yet complex story, describing Mrs Mallard’s feelings. It focuses on the unfolding emotional state of Mrs Mallard after the news of her husbands death, and has overflowing symbolism and imagery. It is an impressive literary piece that touches the readers’ feelings and mind and allows the reader to have a connection to Mrs Mallard’s emotional process. Although the story is short, it is complete with each word carrying deep sense and meaning. It is written in the 19th century, a time that had highly restrictive gender roles that forbade women to live as they saw fit. Mrs Mallard experiences something not everyone during this time has the luck to have; the happiness of freedom that the reader only understands at the end of the story. The author unfolds Mrs Mallards feelings in three stages; firstly moving quickly to grief, then to a sense of newfound freedom, and finally to despair over the loss of that freedom. To create the story, Chopin uses an abundance of literary elements, including imagery, personification, and similes, and also makes use of the social expectations of her time. In the beginning of the story the reader is told that Mrs Mallard suffers from a heart condition, and news of her husband’s death is brought to her “as gently as possible” (158). Mrs Mallard’s sister, Josephine, and her husbands friend Richards break the news, believing Mrs Mallard would be upset and that the news could make her condition worsen. During the 19th century, most women when in Mrs Mallard’s situation would wait until they were in private before breaking their composure. Mrs Mallard however, “wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment” (158). The reader expects Mrs Mallard to be upset at the news of her husbands death, and worries that with her heart trouble the sad news may worsen her condition. However, her reaction to the news is just the first emotional response to the news, without deep comprehension of what has happened and how it will change her life. Chopin shows us how Mrs Mallard, little by little, comes to realise it and what helps her to understand it. After composing herself Mrs Mallard goes to her room and “there stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank” (158). Reading this readers realise something turns the story to a more positive and reassuring way. How does Chopin create this effect? Chopin uses imagery and creates the comfortable setting so that the reader can become more in tune with Mrs Mallards situation and feelings. By allowing the reader to see two things “a comfortable, roomy armchair” which symbolises security and comfort in spite of Mr Mallards death, and “the open window” that symbolises a connection to the world and life continuing. In the fifth paragraph Chopin emphasises the feelings of comfort and security even more, and creates more details and fresh elements for the new and positive turn in the story. The reader is told that Mrs Mallard, through the window, can see “tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life,” (158) and that “the delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street bellow a peddler was crying his wares.” (158). These parts, also an example of imagery by setting the scene outside of the house, show the reader that Mrs Mallard is reconnecting with the world. Sitting in that armchair she starts to hear sounds and smell scents that she didn’t before; things we take for granted and only appreciate when we’re happy. Did she really not notice these everyday occurrences until after her husband’s death? In the next paragraph Chopin gives us more details of these changes, emphasizing it but not telling the reader why she didn’t notice until now. Careful readers, however, understand the deep sense of the words about the “patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other” (158). These words aren’t there just to take up space. They...
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