A Glimpse Into the Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

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Introduction to Literature

Nathan Pritts February 11, 2013 A Glimpse into The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin Literature can be found at every turn and there are many different genres to choose from. Each brings with it a new world for the reader to immerse himself. Literature allows the reader to experience a new perspective. It allows the reader to feel and connect with the story and its characters. No matter the genre, the world created in a literary work provides enlightenment to the reader in spite of the varying emotions it conveys.

One such literary work is Kate Chopin’s, “The Story of an Hour”. This short story captured my interest through its use of irony. In studying this specific work, I chose to use a reader-response approach to evaluate and analyze the text. Using a reader-response approach allows me to connect with the story and reflect on the wide array of emotions presented in the story. In order to connect I had to read imaginatively and immerse myself in the story and put myself in the shoes of the main character, Mrs. Mallard.

Once that was taken care of I had to consider or analyze what I had read, and then draw conclusions or interpret what I had read. In short, “The Story of an Hour” is about a woman who experiences a multitude of conflicting feelings at the news of her husband’s death due to a tragic train accident. Some of the feelings Mrs. Mallard experiences in this story are grief, exhaustion, fear, joy, and freedom. It is interesting to note that many of Chopin’s literary works represent women who are struggling to be free or to have independence of self.

Also noteworthy is the fact that Chopin’s father died in a train accident and Chopin herself “…grew up surrounded by smart, independent, single women” (Wyatt, 1995, para. 2). It is no wonder that she portrays Mrs. Mallard as a strong, independent woman, in spite of her heart trouble. At the onset of the story, one might have the opinion that Mrs. Mallard is weak because of her heart trouble and the “great care” that is taken in relaying the news of her husband’s death. However, it is quite the opposite. Initially she is distraught; stricken with grief and exhausted. But these feelings give way to something more.

Using simile, the writer paints a clear picture of a new beginning…“She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air” (Clugston, 2010). These thoughts of a new beginning brought with it fear for Mrs. Mallard. She was fearful of what she was feeling which could be described as joy or anticipation. Not wanting to seem heartless, in my opinion, she “beat it back with her will”, to no avail. She was finally free. Free to “live for herself” and to only think of her needs.

This desire for freedom and self seems to be a running theme in many of Chopin’s literary works and can be seen in the character, Edna Pontellier, when she stands naked on the beach at Grand Isle. In a review by Lewis P. Simpson (1971), he quotes Seyersted who says that Edna “symbolizes a victory of self-knowledge and authenticity as she becomes fully herself. ” I believe that this depicts Mrs. Mallard as well. Mrs. Mallard knew that her husband loved her and because of that she would still feel sorrow and grief, but she would also feel relief. Relief because she knew she had the rest of her life ahead of her to live it as she pleased.

Unfortunately for her, that relief was short-lived when in an ironic twist, her husband, Brently Mallard walked in the front door alive and well and Mrs. Mallard died. There are many different genres of literature but in particular I really enjoyed Chopin’s short story The Story of an Hour. The textbook tells us, “Literature restores the past, stimulates the imagination, glorifies the commonplace, evokes emotions and links feeling to thinking, upholds a vision of the ideal, and explores significant human questions and reveals human nature (Clugston, 2010).

This rings true for this piece of literature. It brought together elements of imagination, symbolism, and metaphors that paint a vivid picture of a woman who feels repressed in her marriage and embraces the freedom she feels at the news of her husband’s death. This piece allowed me to experience a new perspective. It allowed me to feel and connect with the story and its characters. It created a world that I could immerse myself into.

References

  1. Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
  2. Retrieved from https://content. ashford. edu/books/AUENG125. 10. 2/sections/sec2. 3
  3. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography by Per Seyersted; The Complete Works of Kate Chopin by Per Seyersted; Kate Chopin Review by: Lewis P.
  4. Simpson Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association , Vol. 12, No. 1 (Winter, 1971), pp. 86-88
  5. Published by: Louisiana Historical Association Article Stable URL: http://www. jstor. org/stable/4231171 Wyatt, N. (1995).
  6. Biography of Kate Chopin. Retrieved from http://www. vcu. edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/katebio. html

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