The Story of an Hour

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Dawn George

The Story of an Hour

In “The Story of an Hour” Kate Chopin challenges close readers to re-examine the connotations associated with death and life. For most readers, death represents an ending: a time of sadness and sorrow, while life is a joyous new beginning. However, in this story, the author portrays death as life and life as death: demonstrating the incongruity between what readers may expect and what actually occurs. Presenting Brently Mallard’s death as the commencement of Louise Mallard’s life and his unexpected return to life as her death, underscores Chopin skillful use of this ironic twist to shift the readers’ expectations and gain their willing suspension of disbelief.

Immediately she confronts the readers’ expectations of how a young woman should react to the horrific news of her husband’s premature death. The expectation of society is that she would collapse with grief and bewilderment as the whole foundation of her life torn asunder. Fully expecting this reaction, her family took “great care” in breaking the news as “gently as possible” (157). However, the protagonist “did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance” nor did she deny the truth of it (157). Mrs. Mallard did meet the expectations of those around her when she “wept, with sudden wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” but when that moment of grief passed she removed herself from their comfort and “went away to her room alone” challenging the expectation that this young woman would need her loving family to guide her through this crisis (157).

As Mrs. Mallard sits alone in her room, her thoughts do not follow the course a reader may expect when they find life rather than contemplating death. When reading a scene filled with grief, readers may expect to find shades of grey, and language overflowing with the imagery of winter: barren landscapes with nary a whisper of a living creature, bare trees,...
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