Symbolism in “Story of an Hour”

“Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, 1894, is about a wife who has heart problems, she has just been told about the news of her husband dying in a train accident. This news brings joy to her, instead of the sadness of which normally comes when losing someone. She gets this sense of freedom, which is ended by her death, she is surprised by the appearance of her husband safe and at home now. “The Hand” by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, 1924, is about a wife who was caught up in the newness of a husband and the joys of becoming a wife. She then comes to realize how her life has changed, and how unknown this relationship is to her.

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The “Story of an Hour” and “The Hand” have many similarities, two being the theme and the setting. Both stories are about marriage and the challenges that come with it. As readers we get a sense of how the women really feel in their marriage, but they are keeping these feelings to themselves. The setting in both takes place in a single room, their bedroom. The time frame in which these stories take place is also comparable in both, they happen over a short amount of time.

“Story of an Hour” and “The Hand” have one major difference, and that is the characters involved in the stories. We see a husband and wife in “The Hand”, and the wife is portrayed as being alone. In “Story of an Hour”, the wife is surrounded by her sister and a friend, and she is portrayed as having a support system. Here we see two different sides of marriage, both of which happens in everyday life. Many women have a huge support system, whereas some are stuck with being alone.

Symbolism is throughout both, although the symbols themselves are the same and different. In “Story of an Hour”, the title itself is a symbol, it captures the amount of time a life can instantly change. The wife’s, Mrs. Mallard, heart is also a symbol. It is described in the story as being diseased, she has a sick heart, this also symbolizes the way she feels about her marriage. She is unhappy and wants to have her freedom. There is also the open window in which Mrs. Mallard looks out of after hearing the news of her husband’s death. This can symbolize the chance she gets to finally be free from her unhappy marriage, she is taking in all that is around her in a new sense of life.

In “The Hand” the title again is a symbol, the hand itself is referring to the hand of the husband in the story. It is a symbolism of masculinity, it is seen as being strong and apelike. The brief sentence about blue curtains is also a symbol of masculinity, many relate blue to be a male dominant color. Another form of symbolism comes from the different shades of pink that are mentioned in the story. This is seen as a sense of femininity, as pink is seen as a female dominant color.

In both stories the setting takes place at home, and mainly in their bedrooms. The time that “Story of an Hour” and “The Hand” take place is during a period that was known for women to stay home and care for the house, as well as listen to their husbands’ orders. Mrs. Mallard, in “Story of an Hour” is seen as not liking the circumstances that come with being a wife and adhering to these customs. She is wanting to be a free woman, someone who can make her own decisions and not have to abide by her husbands rule. The wife in “The Hand” is now realizing the changes that are about to occur with becoming a wife. She is this feminine dainty person, which is now surrounded by strength and masculinity. This feeling overwhelms her as she is unaware of what is to become of this marriage.

Although the theme is about marriage, it doesn’t necessarily have to be about love. In “Story of an Hour” there is a disconnection between Mrs. Mallard and her husband. She is not in love with him, but he could be seen as being in love with her. Mrs. Mallard is described as doubting the marriage she has and wanting more from life. The wife in “The Hand” seems to be doubting her marriage in a sense of something that is unknown to her and that it happened so quick. There is love between her and her husband, she is just unfamiliar with sharing a life with a man.

Both stories take place over a short period of time. As the title states in “Story of an Hour”, it can be believed that all the events take place within an hour. From getting information on Mrs. Mallards health, news of an accident, to her envisioning her freedom, and to her death. It was a story that was conveyed for her final hour of life. This just shows how much can change in a short amount of time and how drastically it can end. In “The Hand” it also only takes place within a few hours, from the middle of the night to the start of morning. From showcasing a new found love of marriage, the unsureness of the masculinity of a man, and to the unknown of being a wife. This too shows how quickly feelings can change, it may be built up over a period of time, but it only takes a minute to realize.

The “Story of an Hour” and “The Hand” both are so oddly the same. They convey a theme of marriage and the women involved in it. The stories showcase the different sacrifices that both women make when becoming married. Which helps us understand the circumstances women had to make being married in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Time is precious, expressing your feelings is crucial in getting your time back. These two women may be different, but are the same in the sense of struggling with a marriage they are in. 

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Symbolism in “Story of an Hour”. (2022, Sep 05). Retrieved October 7, 2022 , from
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