The Story of an Hour is one of the greatest short stories ever written in English language. In this story Kate Chopin meticulously incorporated her unique style of writing and through such infusion the author tried to convey to the readers the pains and agonies from which women usually suffered while dwelling within the male dominated society. By presenting before the readers the emotional turmoil and psychological transition of the protagonist Mrs. Millard, Chopin succeeded to reveal the dark truths of married life, a life in which, conventionally, women are held imprisoned by rigid social conventions. By conveying the positive emotional state of Mrs. Millard, along with the a sense of triumph, which she experienced after learning about her husband’s death, clearly points to the fact that the central theme of the story is undoubtedly about the relation between marriage and imprisonment which no one but an unhappily married woman can understand. Though not stated directly by Chopin, the pivotal theme of the story circles round the dilemma from which women usually suffer when they are forced to lead a married life devoid of love and freedom and this theme has been conveyed scrupulously by the author through the infusion of selective style of writing, sentence structure, word use, use of figure of speech, and use of symbolism. In this story Chopin did employ the strategy of third person omniscient point of view which is “a method of storytelling in which the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all of the characters in the story” (Wiehardt, n.d.). To ascertain the implementation of such method one can quote the following line: “But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air” (Chopin, 1894). Going through this line it can be understood that the narrator is like a God who can read the mind of the character and can understand her thoughts and feelings and moreover, the narrator has an all-pervasive presence which enables her to know about the emotional and physical transitions of the character perfectly. Hence, from this perspective it can be said that in The Story of an Hour, in order to reveal the joy of a woman who has just been liberated from the prison of her dejected married life, Kate Chopin did use the third person omniscient method of storytelling. Kate Chopin had a unique style of writing an in this story she did scrupulously amalgamate her emotional style of writing through which she “actively searched for female spiritual emancipation” (Deter, n.d.), and from this point of view it can be said that Chopin was a feminist writer who, unlike many other feminist writers of her time, wanted to upheld the personal freedom of women through judging the traditional outlooks of both women and men. Furthermore, Chopin’s effort to bring before her readers the harshness of a loveless and emotionless married life can be easily seen in The Story of an Hour by going through the complex sentence constructions like in the following line: “What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!” (Chopin, 1894). By avidly reading such lines it can be understood that Chopin did deliberately use such complex sentences to convey the complexities of a loveless married life in which wife is like a prisoner bound to adhere to the traditional rules of the society which enforces her to be dutiful to her husband even if the latter did never show any warmth of lover to her. Furthermore, Chopin, in this story, tried to reveal the joy of liberation from an unsuccessful marital relation by using euphonious words and such usage can be found in this line: “The delicious breath of rain was in the air” (Chopin, 1894). How for Mrs. Millard the aspects of nature became jovial from gloomy, after learning that it was no more needed for her to sacrifice her will to remain dutiful to her husband, has been carefully rendered through the above mentioned line and such a line is a pointer to the fact that after realizing the forthcoming state of freedom (which is an instinctive longing for every human being) from an unsuccessful married life, the agonizing life of a woman can be turned into a mirthful one. And from this perspective the objective of the story is to uphold the philosophy of feminism. To convey the contradictions of an unhappy married life Chopin justly applied different types of figures of speech. The complexities of an unhappy and unsuccessful married life with all its contradictions have been described in the story with the help of oxymoron, “A figure of speech in which incongruous or seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side” (Nordquist, n.d.). The use of oxymoron in the line “She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her” (Chopin, 1894), clearly can make the reader understand that how by placing the incongruous terms “monstrous” and “joy” side by side Chopin did try to reveal the dilemma of an agonizing and emotionless married life. Chopin did also employ the element of irony in the story to expose the pathetic condition of a woman who had been imprisoned by the rigid social conventions related to marriage. In the line, “He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message” (Chopin, 1894), it can be clearly observed how exactly Chopin did incorporate the element of irony. Though the line assures the reader of the death of Mr. Millard, in reality he never died and this reality ultimately claimed the life of the central protagonist of the story, Mrs. Millard. Moreover, the contradictory treatment of the male dominated society towards women has been presented before the reader in a perfect manner through the use of paradox, “A figure of speech in which a statement appears to contradict itself” (Nordquist, n.d.). By using the phrase “revealed in half concealing” (Chopin, 1894) Chopin tried to depict the dilemma and paradoxes of a miserable married life (experienced by a woman) by relating two contradictory words “revealed” and “half concealing”. And through all such incorporations Chopin did successfully transform her short story into a universal feminist story. Finally, through the use of symbolism, Kate Chopin conscientiously did reveal the woe of a woman who was never bestowed a happy married life by the Almighty and by the male dominated human society. Heart has been used as a symbol in the story to convey the turmoil of the unhappy married life of Mrs. Millard. Heart is the symbol of a person’s emotion and the very first sentence of the story convey to the reader that Mrs. Millard is suffering from a heart problem and this is symbolic as this heart problem of Mrs. Millard is more an emotional heart problem related to her unsuccessful marriage than a physical heart disease (Lorcher, 2011). Moreover, it can also be ascertained that “Mrs. Mallard's heart troubles…represent the peril in which the late 19th century institution of marriage finds itself on account of the inequalities therein” (Lorcher, 2011). So, it can be seen that to convey the dilemmas from which a woman suffers while carrying on with a futile marriage, Chopin did appropriately use symbols and such usage transformed the story into an outstanding piece of writing conveying the turmoil of women residing in a society full of myriad kinds of inequalities. In conclusion, the central theme of The Story of an Hour is about the dilemma from which women usually suffer when they are forced to lead a married life devoid of love and freedom and this theme has been conveyed scrupulously by the author through the infusion of selective style of writing, sentence structure, word use, use of figure of speech, and use of symbolism. And through all such incorporations Chopin did successfully transform her short story into a universal feminist story.
Chopin, K. (1894). "The Story of an Hour". University. Retrieved December 29, 2012, Deter, F. (n.d.). Kate Chopin. About.com. Classic Literature. Retrieved December 29, 2012, from http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-bio/bl-kchopin.htm Lorcher, T. (2011). Irony and Symbols in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin. Bright Hub Education Provides Teaching Tips & Lesson Plans, Homework Help & Study Guides, Homeschooling Advice & Much More. Retrieved December 29, 2012, from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/homework-help-literature/60196-the-story-of-an-hour-irony-and-symbolism/ Nordquist, R. (n.d.). Oxymoron. About.com. Grammar & Composition. Retrieved December 29, 2012, from http://grammar.about.com/od/mo/g/oxymoronterm.htm Nordquist, R. (n.d.). Paradox. About.com. Grammar &Composition. Retrieved December 29, 2012, from http://grammar.about.com/od/pq/g/paradoxterm.htm Wiehardt, G. (n.d.). Third Person Omniscient Point of View. About.com. Fiction Writing. Retrieved December 29, 2012, from http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/glossary/g/omniscient.htm