“The Story of an Hour”, a short story written by Kate Chopin, is a story not only of a wife who has presumably lost her husband, but a story of irony as well. Chopin uses vivid imagery to describe moments in a way one would not expect from events in the plot. The plot itself also becomes ironic when Chopin ends her story with a twist. While one would expect “The Story of an Hour” to be a story of sadness and loss. The reader finds through Chopin’s choice words and interesting plot that the story is actually a very ironic story about the truth behind some relationships.
Chopin starts her story with a sullen, grieving tone. Such a tone makes sense because the story opens with breaking the news to Mrs. Mallard, the main character, that her husband has died in an accident. She uses phrases like “storm of grief”, and “pressed down by a physical exhaustion” to show the weight of Mis. Mallards sudden grief. It is when Mrs. Mallard gets a chance to be alone when the tone suddenly changes. After a moment of staring off through an open window, glancing at the tops of trees …. aquiver with new spring life,” and smelling the “delicious breath of rain (that) was in the air,” it seems that Mrs. Mallards mood, as well as the tone of the story, has changed to something less heavy and dark to one that is opportunistic and light. This new happy feeling was a result to Mrs. Mallard realizing that a long procession of years… would belong to her absolutely,” and such a realization “warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” Such a response is unexpected from the death of one’s husband, but Chopin goes on to reveal that Mallard saw her husband as a powerful will on her life, and she did not always love him. Such an explanation takes some irony away from Mrs. Mallard’s response because it is more understandable, but Chopin hits her readers with another blow of irony in the end of her plot.
At the beginning of the story, Chopin made it seem very clear to the reader that Brently Mallard, Mrs. Mallard’s husband, was most definitely dead, because Richards, Brently’s friend, had received a list of “killed with Mallard’s name on it, as well as a second telegram that had “assured himself of its truth”. With such assurance of Mallard’s death, the reader goes on to accept Mrs. Mallard’s response as true and, while perhaps unexpected, permanent. We expect Mrs. Mallard to continue life with a new realized freedom and happiness. Chopin doesn’t allow this to happen, however, and surprises the reader with a burst of irony. When Mrs. Mallard leaves the room, she finds her husband alive and well, as he had been far from the accident. With this discovery, Mrs. Mallard dies from a heart attack, foreshadowed by the first line in the story informing the reader of her heart condition. The irony in her death is that her heart attack is described as coming from a “joy that kills,” when in reality the reader knows that Mrs. Mallard was joyed by Mr. Mallard’s death, and it was the devastation of his being alive that killed her.
Chopin’s use of vivid imagery, plot events, and some foreshadowing provides the reader with a rich story of loss and new life. Chopin designed her story in a way that implemented a great amount of irony, which gives the story character as well as a great surprise ending.
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