In Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, the emotional process of the main character, Mrs. Mallard, is profound as she receives news from her sister, Josephine, that her husband, Mr. Richards, is dead. She receives a false report that her husband died from railway carnage. Approximately an hour later, Mrs. Mallard finds out that her husband is alive. Regardless, Mrs. Mallard first experiences loss and despair in believing that she would live alone. She seeks total isolation in a private room so that she may mourn. When she convinces herself that she may enjoy her new circumstance, her husband appears alive and he, literary, shocks her to death. Therefore, emotions are central to this work and Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” uses literary devices to accentuate Mrs. Mallard’s emotional journey.
First, Mrs. Mallard is said to have a delicate heart condition and so Josephine delivers the news of death softly because of the degree of distress that Mrs. Mallard could experience would initiate a heart problem.(Chopin 287). The protagonist’s ill heart symbolizes trouble in her romance life. In Western culture, which is in the setting of the story, the heart is closely associated with love. The opening sentence records that “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble,” indicating that she faced challenges at her core. In fact, later in the text, the narrator says “And yet she loved him-sometimes. Often she had not” to describe the inconsistent love she has for her partner, Mr. Richards (Chopin 288). Therefore, the ailments in her heart symbolize unease in her love life, which in this case is her affection for Mr. Richards. Furthermore, the unstable love in her marriage is mirrored by the unstable presence of her husband in the story. The audience “meets” him dead, and then witnesses the power of his absence a Mrs. Mallard processes it. After spending most of the story having accepted his death, the audience and the protagonist surprisingly discover that Mr. Richards is alive and well. This discovery shocks the protagonist’s faible heart to death. The symbolic connection between Mrs. Mallard’s cardiovascular illness and her significant other is so strong that it is in the first and last ideas of the story.
The story also features imagery as similes that demonstrate the depth of Mrs. Mallard’s emotions. The image which portrays that Mrs. Mallard is overcome is that she is said to be “as a child who has cried to sleep” (Chopin 288). The illustration of an adult looking childlike to lose composure allows the audience to imagine how helpless she felt without her spouse. Once again, Mrs. Mallard is depicted as weak, but this association also adds the sense that she is so upset that she is feeling incapable and dependent. Furthermore, the phrase “as powerless as her two white slender hands” depicts that she, who holds a station above those who must do physical labor because she has not worked her hands tan and muscular, now feels futile (Chopin 288). Both similes hint that Mrs. Mallard now sees herself as inadequate. The news that her husband is dead has her facing emotions which make her feel diminished. The imagery keenly describes the inner world of Mrs. Mallard with similes.
The way the story is able to reveal the deep emotions is by magnifying information only an omniscient person would have. The story used the third-person view of narration to show that the news affected many characters. The audience must rely on all the information that the narrator provides to understand the story. The narrator describes actions and reasons and carefully gives emotional details. For example, the omniscient voice enables the reader to understand that the accident report saddened everyone, including Josephine because she realized that the message was delicate and required gentleness. Additionally, the third person point of view enabled the writer to explain that Mr. Richards didn’t actually know of the accident which was said to kill him (Chopin 289). Therefore, the omniscient view of narration empowered Chopin to portray the sentiments of multiple characters in the story.
Continuing on the notion of sentiment, the narrator has a sentimental tone to bring the audience closer to what the characters experience. The reader connected to Mrs. Mallard’s disappointments because the author used words and phrases such as ‘wild abandonment,’ for Mrs. Mallard’s widowhood, ‘piercing cry” for Josephine’s shock, and ‘storm of grief” instead of just “grief”, to evoke emotional responses from the readers (Chopin 287; 289; 287). The emotional tone enabled the audience to understand the effects of heightened levels of disappointments exhibited in the rendition of the narration.
The story simply does not have much action. Most of the story takes place in the psychology of the main character. Therefore, for “The Story of an Hour” to be memorable, it delivers an impact through the language it uses to appeal to the reader’s feelings. The application of literary devices transforms a tale about a woman who hears bad news, sits alone, and subsequently discovers that the bad news is false into a rich reading worthy of being included in the literary canon. Chopin uses literary devices such as symbolism, imagery, voice, and the narrator’s point of view to emphasize the intense emotions Mrs. Mallard feels within a single hour.
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