The Story of an Hour – Analytical Essay

Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is a story about the last hour of Louise Mallard’s life. After learning about Mr. Mallard’s death from a telegram, Richards and Josephine delicately break the news to Louise, doing their best to prevent Louise’s heart trouble from acting up.

Initially, Louise completely breaks down at the loss of her husband, but this quickly transforms into elation as she realizes that she is now free to live for herself. As she becomes comfortable with her newfound freedom and composes herself, the front door opens. In walks Mr. Mallard, who had been far from the accident they thought he was in. At the sight of her husband, Louise drops dead, which the doctors later attribute to a heart attack of joy.

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This story illustrates the oppression that sometimes comes with marriage, and the overwhelming self-empowerment that comes with breaking free. The central character of “The Story of an Hour” is Louise Mallard, whose last hour is the hour mentioned in this story’s title. Louise begins as a character “whose lines bespoke of repression” (13) and “thought with a shudder that life might be long” (14).It is implied that Louise’s life beside her husband had been one with a “powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence” (14).

This is the reason for her overwhelming joy at the idea of her new life as her own person, and the reason we can state that Louise is a dynamic character. After recognizing that she is “Free! Body and soul free! ” (14), Louise removes the shackles of her husband’s expectations and steps forth as an independent woman. She saw “a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely.And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome” (14). In Louise Mallard’s last hour, we see a woman grow from a submissive wife to a liberated woman, ready to take on the days ahead of her.

Brently Mallard is the strongest supporting character. It is through Louise’s life with Brently and her reaction to his appearance at the end of the story that we get a better understanding of Louise’s dynamism. Though he had “kind, tender hands” and “never looked save with love upon her”, Louise “had loved him – sometimes. Often she had not” (14).

After the news of Brently’s death, none of it mattered “in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” (14). Louise’s conflict with herself, Man vs. Self, is the central conflict of the story. It is Louise’s struggle to allow her own will to come forth that strengthens her struggle to break away from society’s expectations of her as a wife. Self-assertion is what “she was beginning to recognize… approaching to posses her”, and with this, she overcomes her subconscious will “to beat it back” (13).After coming to terms with her new identity, she gains the confidence to live an independent life.

It is through the resolution of her Man vs. Self conflict that she finds the strength to break free from the second conflict, Man vs. Society. The supporting conflict in this story, Man vs. Society, is an unresolved one between Louise and the society she lives in. It is assumed that Louise was living a life of oppression at her husband’s side, and with her husband dead, she no longer has to live his life with him. She is free to actively live out her own dreams.As a wife in that time period, she has been socially conditioned to react and behave in certain ways.

This is evident in Louise’s different sets of reactions, where she “wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment” (13), but then let her joy run wild and fantasized of “all sorts of days that would be her own” (14). Her reaction change gives us a clearer visual of her transformation and sudden unrestrained individualism. While society itself hadn’t changed, and this Man vs. Society conflict remains unresolved, it helps us further understand the reasoning behind Louise’s sudden self-assertion and extreme elation.Kate Chopin uses both 3rd Person Dramatic and 3rd Person Omniscient points of view in this short story. In the beginning and end, we are able to make our own judgments on Louise’s character through the narrator’s descriptions of her actions, like how “her bosom rose and fell tumultuously” (13). Using a 3rd Person Dramatic point of view also gives us an objective idea of how the people in Louise’s life affect her mindset. Through the narrator’s descriptions of Josephine’s behavior, like “kneeling before the closed door” and “imploring for admission”, we have a better idea of how women usually behave in their society.

With this point of view, outside of Louise’s thoughts, Chopin is also able to make Louise’s sudden death a more solid twist ending. This gives the reader the chance to assume, rather than be told, that Louise’s fatal heart attack was one of heartbreak, not joy. The story revolves around Chopin’s use of 3rd Person Omniscient, though. It is with this point of view that we are able to step right into Louise’s mind and share in her last thoughts, right up to the point where “[she] breathed a quick prayer that life might be long” (14).


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