"The Story of an Hour" Essay

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Prompt: Read “The Story of an Hour” carefully. Examine the protagonist’s attitude about the death of her husband. How is this attitude revealed and how does it contribute to the meaning of the story?

In “The Story of an Hour” the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, is introduced as a married woman who learns of the death of her husband. Her attitude towards this information develops during the story and is revealed by Chopin’s use of contrast, word choice, and tone. Mrs. Mallard’s reaction show’s the readers that though a woman can enjoy a relationship, love and its responsibilities can be oppressive.

The contrast in this story occurs when Mrs. Mallard retires to her room to mourn, and sits in a “comfortable, roomy armchair” (4) across from an “open window.” (4) During this scene, Mrs. Mallard is also aware of the “open square before her house” (5) and “spring life” (5) along with the “delicious breath of rain” (5) and “patches of blue sky.” (5) All of these are verbal indications of the contrast in her emotions to her environment, and they foreshadow her joyful realization that she is free. Chopin’s choice to describe the armchair as “roomy” and the window as “open” also start to indicate the contrast between her new life without her husband and her old life, where he oppressed her even though she loved him.

Chopin’s word choice also indicates Mrs. Mallard’s attitude. When Mrs. Mallard first learns of her husband’s death, the phrases “wild abandonment,” “storm of grief,” and “physical exhaustion” (3-4) are used to show that she was devastated with the news of her husband’s death. Later, phrases such as “dull stare,” “suspension of intelligent thought,” “subtle and elusive,” and “striving to beat it back” (8-10) start to show how Mrs. Mallard had ended her grieving and was beginning to allow other ideas to pass through her mind. Finally, phrases such as “keen and bright,” “monstrous joy,” and “her fancy was running riot” (11-19) show the transition to Mrs....
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