Joy That Kills
How would one react to finding out their husband has just died? In Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, wife Louise Mallard is told that her husband has been killed. At first Louise is shocked until she retires upstairs where she encounters many different emotions and even an epiphany. But at the end of the story the husband walks in the door . . . alive. The sudden shock of seeing her husband alive ends up killing her. Louise’s personality and actions leading up to, during, and after the epiphany play an important role in understanding the question.
Chopin tells readers in the first line that, “ . . . Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble . . . “(168). One can assume that she had physical heart trouble and was unwell or ill. Yet, looking deeper into the definitions of Chopin’s word choice, it reveals that Mrs. Mallard had an emotional heart trouble. She might feel confined and broken down because of an event or individual. After hearing about her husband’s death, her response might seem heartless, “ She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance.”(169). She didn’t question or deny it like most women would, she cried only for a moment then retired upstairs. Sitting in the chair in her room, Louise looks out the window and notices only pleasant things. This is where Chopin gives readers a hint about her past. She is described as, “ . . . young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.”(169). Why did Chopin’s description show that Louise’s face had lines that “ . . . bespoke repression and even a certain strength.”(169)? The answer is simple” Chopin wanted readers to see that she had been holding in her needs, wants, and emotions along with the tremendous strength it took to do so.
Finally, Chopin leads readers to the epiphany where Louise’s personality seems to change. As she’s sitting in her...
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