Irony allows the author to engage and surprise the reader, which often also teaches an important lesson. The definition of irony is “using words to imply the opposite of what they are normally mean.” The reader can observe many instances of irony from “The Story of an Hour.” In the short story, Louise Mallard’s weak heart undergoes big transformations within a very short time by three different types of irony: situational irony, verbal irony, and dramatic irony.
First, situational irony is used in “The Story of an Hour” to show turn to the reader. Situational irony is “used to show the expect results sometimes do not happen.” One example of situational irony is Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to her husband’s death. When she first hears the news of her husband’s death in train accident, “she weeps at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” and “she goes away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.” It appears to the reader she is very upset for her husband’s death, but in fact, she is actually happy for her freedom and her new life. The second example in the short story is Brently Mallard, is presumed, is indeed alive and walks in at the end of the short story. In the beginning of the short story, Mr. Brently’s friend is taking the time to assure himself that Mr. Brently’s death is true by sending second telegram. But in the end, Mr. Brently comes back and he does not even know there has been an accident. Another situational irony throughout the short story is that Mr. Mallard lives on and Mrs. Mallard passes away. After Mrs. Mallard believes her husband died, she prays that her life may be long, but she soon dies. Next, dramatic irony is also used in the story to give the reader powerful implications. Dramatic irony is “used to fill the reader in something that the characters in the short story do not know about.” For example, in “The Story of an Hour”, Mrs. Mallard feels that she is free after she realizes her husband's death. “She goes room alone, and there is something coming to her and she is waiting for it.” Everyone in her house believes that she is very sad and depressed. Her sister even begs her to open the door. Her sister is so afraid that she will make herself ill. However, “she is drinking in a very elixir of life though that open window” and “she feels body and soul all free.” At the end of the short story, “when the doctors come, they say she has died of heart disease of the joy that kills.” However, by reading the whole story, the reader knows her death is not because of heart disease but because of the surprise of her husband’s return. She loses her newly received “freedom”.
The final irony used in the story is verbal irony, which is to help to convey different aspects of the short story. Verbal irony is “a figure of speech in which what is said is the opposite of what is meant.” In the first paragraph, the author mentions Mrs. Mallard has heart trouble. After reading the entire story, the reader knows Mrs. Mallard does not have the physical ailment. The actual intention of the author is Mrs. Mallard has a soul problem. Mrs. Mallard suffers from repression, a trouble of the soul. Another verbal irony is the last sentence of the short story, and the word “joy” has opposite meaning here. The author’s intention is to destroy news for Mrs. Mallard of with her husband’s return. The next verbal irony comes out as Mrs. Mallard says “free, free, free”. She will be free both physically and emotionally. Irony is used as an effective literary device, and there are three different types of irony used in "The Story of an Hour.” The author uses irony vividly to portray Mrs. Mallard’s psychological transformation, and makes the story rich. In the short story, Mrs. Mallard, who believes her husband died in a train accident, and she celebrates. After she discovers her husband is still alive, she passes away. It shows a wife’s long-suffering life by using her reactions to her husband’s death. Mrs. Mallard’s desire for freedom and helplessness let the reader feels very sad and sorry to her.