The Story of an Hour

“The Story of an Hour”
by Kate Chopin
Analysis and Discussions
Pre-reading discussion
What can we do in an hour?
1. Play a game
2. See a movie
3. Enjoy a long nap
But, do you believe an hour can make a
woman live well become dead?
“The Story of an Hour” Tasks
Answer the questions
凯特·肖邦 (1851~1904)
A Woman Ahead Of Her Time
The Writer: Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin is one American’s most
important women writers of the 19th
century. Her representative work
“Awakening” is recognized for performance
pioneer of feminist thought.
“The Story of an Hour”, published in 1894, is
a boutique in Chopin’s short stories.
The literary context of Chopin's work is
debatable. She can be considered as a
Southern women writer, a proto-feminist (a
label she strongly denied), a local-colorist, a
romantic, a realist, or a naturalist. In fact,
her work may be characterized by ties to
several literary "movements," ties which one
might like to explore.
The women in the 19th century were
required to learn all the social graces and
encouraged to follow the rules and
principles as men wanted them do. They
could do nothing, regardless of what they
think. In other words, they had no freedom.
The Story
Leading characters:
1. Mrs. Mallard
2. Mr. Mallard
3. Mr. Mallard’s friend Richards
4. Mrs. Mallard’s sister Josephine
Psychological Process
1. Sad for her husband’s death
2. Awakening
3. Discovering her own freedom
4. But she was dead finally
1. Repression of women in a male-dominated
society in the late 19th century expected
women to keep house, cook, bear and rear
children—but little more. “The Story of an
Hour” hints that Mrs. Mallard’s husband—
perhaps a typical husband of his day—
dominated his wife.
2. Women’s aware of their identity in marriage
1. What happened to Mr. Mallard?
His name was on the list of “killed”
according to intelligence of a railroad
disaster, but at last proved to be a mistake.
2. What kind of a person was Richard?
He was careful and tender.
3. How do you understand “she wept at
once, with sudden wild abandonment in her
sister’s arm”?
At first, she was surprised and felt sad and
heartbroken. For her husband was kind and
tender, his face never looked save with love
upon her, but now her husband was dead.
4. Why did Mrs. Mallard feel “free”?
According to the background, women in
America in the late 19th century had no
status and all they could do was to serve
their husbands. So, when she heard the
news, she was sort of happy and thought she
could live a new life out of her husband’s
5. What did the views, the scents, and the
wounds outside the open window reveal
about Mrs. Mallard’s inner feelings?
The tops of trees were all aquiver with the
new spring life, the breath of rain was
delicious, the song and the twittering
sparrows were the symbol of freedom to
Mrs. Mallard. All the things energetic and
full of life just reflect her inner desire to a
free life.
6. What kind of life did Mrs. Mallard want?
There would be no one to live for during the
coming years, she wanted to live for herself.
There would be no powerful will bending
7. What caused Mrs. Mallard’s death? Did
she really die of joy?
Her deep despair when finding her husband
was still alive and all her hope of the bright
future was invalid drove her to death.
8. Can you imagine how Mr. Mallard would
feel about his wife’s death?
He might feel it was an unfortunate
9. What’s the purpose of the author’s
writing this story?
She created the story to fight against the
unfair treatment to women at that time and
call on the whole society to rescue the poor
middle-class women.
10. Why didn’t the writer tell us the first
name of Mrs. Mallard until paragraph 15?
Women were not taken seriously and
nobody would pay attention to their first
name, their existence was just like an
auxiliary to the family. It is until paragraph
15 when Mrs. Mallard started to feel free
that she was provided the first name.
Four parts of the story
1.Exposition: Para 1-2
Mrs. Mallard was told that her husband, Brently Mallard, had
been dead in the railroad disaster.
2.Elaboration: Para 3-7
Mrs. Mallard was so sad at the news that she wept in her
sister’s arms. Then she went away to her room alone, and sat in
the armchair, quite motionless, except a sob came up into her throat
and shook her.
3.Climax: Para 8-20
She was waiting for something coming to her and then
realized it was freedom . She found something more
important than her insipid life—free. Both body and soul
are free.
4.Denouement: Para 21-23
Mrs. Mallard died of heart disease suddenly when
seeing her husband go back home.
Four characters in the story
• Mrs. Mallard
• Josephine
Mrs. Mallard’s sister
• Richards
A friend who told them the
news that her husband was dead.
• Brently Mallard
Mrs. Mallard’s husband
Flat characters
Mrs. Mallard
protagonist & round character
• Direct characterization:
“She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke
repression and even a certain strength.” (para 8)
• Indirect characterization:
“She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister‘s arms. When the storm of
grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her. ” (para 3)
“She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a
sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its
dreams. ” (para 7)
“She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror
that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the
coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body. ” (para 11)
“‘Free! Body and soul free! ’she kept whispering .” (para 16)
Mrs. Louise Mallard is the protagonist of the
story. She is introduced as being "afflicted with
a heart trouble", which is why great care is
taken in telling her of her husband's death. She
mourns her husband, but then begins to feel
relieved and liberated.
Mr. Brently Mallard is assumed dead until the
end of the story when it is revealed that the
news of his death was a mistake.
Josephine is Louise's sister who tells Louise of
her husband's death. She embodies the
feminine ideals of the time, acting as the picture
perfect wife figure.
Richards represents the standard image and
expectations of the man during the time period
- responsible for protecting women. However,
he fails which could have been a bit
controversial for the time period.
Narrator's point of view
an omniscient third-person narrator
enable us readers to see everything in detail rather
than be limited to the protagonist's point of view
show integrated plots and multidimensional
Third-person narrative
The non-participant narrator provides access to
Mrs. Mallard's life: her medical condition or
state, her strict marriage, her lackluster
relationship with her husband, her perspective
on "love" she has for her husband, and her
perspective on her newly awakened ideas on
her personal freedom—which she associates
with the death of her husband.
Mrs. Mallard's health condition (para 1)
her controversial perception of love (para 13)
her frustrating marriage (para 13)
All that happened to Mrs. Mallard after hearing her
husband's death become understandable and
The sudden change of plots
Sudden change of plots is a writing technique widely
used in novels,dramas,especially tragedies.
And its first use can date back to Ancient Greece, when
Aristotle, a great philosopher at that time, specially
discussed this skill in his Poetics. He pointed out that
sudden turn meant actions opposite to what we called
the principle of steering.
Kate Chopin also introduced a plotchange into this
short story.
The death of Mr. Mallard led the whole story happen.
But just when the plot reaches the climax, the
unbelievable appearance of him ends the story, which
totally astonishes us and solves all the doubts left in
the very beginning.
Function of this writing skill
catch the eyes of the readers
make the story more attractive, dynamic and varied.
• Verbal irony: someone says something that
deliberately contradicts what that person actually
• Situational irony: something happens that
contradicts readers’ expectations.
• Dramatic irony: reader or audience is aware of
something that a character does not know.
Authors may use irony to:
• create humor
• add an element of surprise to a story
• develop a story’s theme—its central
• When irony is used in this way, the theme
of the work may concern a discrepancy
between surface appearances and inner
Example of irony
“when the doctors came they said she had
died of heart disease – of joy that kills”
At the end of the story, the doctors agree that she must
have passed away from a sudden shock of extreme
happiness from finding out that her husband lived
after all. But in fact, she was killed by great depression
of being a prisoner again.
Doctors suggest that no one could understand her at
that time.
Live your life for yourself and not anyone
else, because your chance at freedom may
come to late in your life.
“But she saw beyond that bitter moment 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.”
Begins with a calm logical tone.
“Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart
trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as
possible the news of her husband's death.”
Switches to more emotional and elated tone
of a new found freedom.
“They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and
the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her
Women had boundaries set by men, and
were thought to only live for their husbands
or men in their life.
Chopin wrote this to show how men weren’t
the only means of happiness in a women’s
This story is mainly written for women.
For women it was a way to show them that
freedom may come to late in their lives so
they should live their lives for themselves.
When she sits by her window after crying
she begins to notice the flowers blooming
and many other things around her. Things
only noticed when someone is happy.
“There was something coming to her and she was
waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know;
it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it,
creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the
sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.”
Pathos: Emotions revealed vary from sad,
confused, joyful, and ends with a
bittersweet death.
“She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous
joy that held her.”
“Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion
that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her
soul .”
Women’s lives were restrained to certain
thoughts and emotions, not all could be
“There would be no one to live for during those coming
years; she would live for herself. There would be no
powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with
which men and women believe they have a right to
impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.”
Style: Rhetorical Mode
Descriptive: The essay develops through the
accumulation of concrete and specific
details revealing the repression of women
by men as it is experienced by Mrs. Mallard.
“She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines
bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now
there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed
away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was
not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a
suspension of intelligent thought.”
Style: Syntax
The story begins with a regular, logical and
to the point sentence.
As the story unravels we begin to get
shorter sentences.
“The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street
below a peddler was crying his wares.”
Style: Syntax (cont.)
We also receive more pauses. (commas,
semicolons, periods)
“There was something coming to her and she was waiting
for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too
subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of
the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the
scents, the color that filled the air.”
This creates a more rapid tone then the beginning
Ends with a simple sentence,
“When the doctors came they said she had died of heart
disease--of the joy that kills. ”
Style: Others
Simile: “…except when a sob came up into her throat and
shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to
sob in its dreams.”
Imagery: “She could see in the open square before her
house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new
spring life... and countless sparrows were twittering in the
eaves. There were patches of blue sky showing here and
there through the clouds that had met and piled one above
the other in the west facing her window.”
Irony: “When the doctors came they said she had died of
heart disease--of the joy that kills.”
In Class Assignment: discussion
• Mrs. Mallard “did not hear the story as many
women have heard the same”(story quote).
What does this reaction suggest about her? Does
it suggest how “ladies” were expected to react?
• What does the setting description tell us about
her ordinary life?
• Who could consider Mrs. Mallard’s joy
“monstrous”? Do you judge her negatively at
this point?
• How would this story change if it had been
Mr. Mallard at home with heart problems
hearing about Mrs. Mallard’s death?
The title of the short story refers to the time
elapsed between the moments at which the
protagonist, Louise Mallard, hears that her
husband is dead and discovers that he is alive
after all. The Story of an Hour was considered
controversial during the 1890s because it deals
with a female protagonist who feels liberated
by the news of her husband's death.
In Unveiling Kate Chopin, Emily Toth argues
that Chopin "had to have her heroine die" in
order to make the story publishable.
An ironically detached and melancholy tone: The
story comes off as subtly cruel in that Louise's
reaction to the death of her husband was not one
of sadness from loss but rather a bitter joy she
feels when she comes to the understanding that
she is now free from the shackles of marriage, his
perceived death representing freedom and
independence from the role she is forever bound
to by society - a wife.
Marriage vs. Freedom
Mrs. Mallard believes that both women and men
limit each other in matrimony. The story is not
about the husband being abusive to his wife or
vice-versa. Instead, it focuses on the individual's
inner desires for freedom. Louise's desire for
freedom far exceeds her love for him - a
controversial idea that goes against the norms
of society.
Spring –This symbolizes a new beginning which
represents life and that is what Mrs. Mallard
gains as a widow. It also helps to note that
spring comes after winter.
Mrs. Mallard’s Heart: She dies of heart failure
triggered by overwhelming emotional stress. No
one will ever know that the overwhelming
emotional stress was due to her loss of hope for
the future.
Women's Liberation Movement
In the story, this housewife who has been
confined to the social norms of the obedient
wife, has an unorthodox reaction to the death of
her husband. She anticipates her newfound
freedom from the suppression of her husband,
of men, and becomes invigorated by it. This idea
is one of the key values of the feminist
movement, and thus "The Story of an Hour" was
an important literary work to show a woman
breaking from the norm of society.
Film Adaptation
The Joy that Kills, 1984 film adaptation, directed
by Tina Rathbone. It was released in 1984 as
part of the PBS series American Playhouse.
Structure and Style
In “The Story of an Hour,” Chopin employs
specific structural and stylistic techniques
to heighten the drama of the hour. The
structure Chopin has chosen for “The Story
of an Hour” fits the subject matter perfectly.
The story is short, made up of a series of
short paragraphs, many of which consist of
just two or three sentences.
Likewise, the story covers only one hour in
Louise Mallard’s life—from the moment she
learns of her husband’s death to the
moment he unexpectedly returns alive. The
short, dense structure mirrors the intense
hour Louise spends contemplating her new
independence. Just as Louise is completely
immersed in her wild thoughts of the
moment, we are immersed along with her in
this brief period of time.
This story can be read quickly, but the
impact it makes is powerful. Chopin
surprises us first with Louise’s elated (兴高
采烈的) reaction when she first murmurs
“free” to herself. She shocks us again at the
conclusion when she dies upon Brently’s
return. The “heart disease” mentioned at
the end of the story echoes the “heart
trouble” discussed at the beginning,
intensifying the twist ending and bringing
the story to a satisfying close.
Because such a short story leaves no room
for background information, flashbacks, or
excessive speculation, Chopin succeeds in
making every sentence important by
employing an almost poetic writing style.
She uses repetition to highlight important
points, such as when she repeats the
word open throughout the story to
emphasize the freedom of Louise’s new life.
She has Louise repeat the word free over and over
again as well, which is one of the few words Louise
actually speaks aloud in the story and indicates
how much she cherishes her newfound freedom.
Besides repeating words, Chopin also repeats
phrases and sentence structures to highlight
important points. For example, Chopin writes, “She
breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It
was only yesterday that she had thought with a
shudder that life might be long.”
The identical phrasing of the second half of each
sentence reveals how drastically Louise’s life has
changed—she once shuddered at the thought of a
long life, but now she prays for it. Finally, Chopin
makes the prose of the story beautiful by using
alliteration and internal rhymes. For example,
Josephine “revealed in half concealing” when she
tells Louise the news, and Brently reappears
“composedly carrying” his belongings. All of
Chopin’s stylistic and structural techniques
combine to make this very short story powerful.
Important Quotations Explained
1. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose
gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those
patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection,
but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent
This quotation appears after Louise has gone
alone to her room to deal with the news of
Brently’s death. After an initial fit of tears, Louise
looks out her window at the wide-open spaces
below. This quotation is our first hint that Louise’s
reaction to Brently’s death will be surprising and
that Louise is very different from other women.
Whereas most women would gaze reflectively at
the sky and clouds, Louise’s gaze suggests
something different, something shrewder or more
active. What she sees as she gazes out the window
is different from what other women would likely
see after their husbands have died.
Not long after this passage, Louise acknowledges
the joyous feeling of independence that Brently’s
death has given her. Here, at the window, the first
breaths of these feelings are stirring, and her
“intelligent thought” will quickly engage once
again as she processes these feelings and allows
herself to analyze what they mean.
2. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be
long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a
shudder that life might be long.
This quotation appears close to the end of the
story, just before Louise leaves her bedroom to go
back downstairs, and illuminates the extent of
Louise’s elation. Before Brently’s death, Louise
viewed her life with trepidation, envisioning years
of dull, unchanging dependence and oppression.
The “shudder” she felt was one of dread. Now,
however, she is free and independent,
and her life is suddenly worth living. Whereas she
once hoped life would be short, she now prays for
a long, happy life. This passage, besides showing
us how fully Louise feels her independence, also
highlights the unexpectedness of Louise’s
reaction. Rather than dread a life lived alone, this
solitude is, for Louise, reason enough to anticipate
the future eagerly. When Brently returns, she dies,
unable to face the return of the life that she’d
dreaded so much.
Louise’s weeping about Brently’s death highlight
the dichotomy between sorrow and happiness.
Louise cries or thinks about crying for about
three-quarters of “The Story of an Hour,” stopping
only when she thinks of her new freedom. Crying
is part of her life with Brently, but it will
presumably be absent from her life as an
independent woman. At the beginning of the story,
Louise sobs dramatically when she learns that
Brently is dead, enduring a “storm of grief.”
She continues weeping when she is alone in her
room, although the crying now is unconscious,
more a physical reflex than anything spurred by
emotion. She imagines herself crying over
Brently’s dead body. Once the funeral is over in her
fantasies, however, there is no further mention of
crying because she’s consumed with happiness.
The Open Window
The open window from which Louise gazes for
much of the story represents the freedom and
opportunities that await her after her husband has
died. From the window, Louise sees blue sky, fluffy
clouds, and treetops. She hears people and birds
singing and smells a coming rainstorm. Everything
that she experiences through her senses suggests
joy and spring—new life. And when she ponders
the sky, she feels the first hints of elation.
Once she fully indulges in this excitement, she feels
that the open window is providing her with life
itself. The open window provides a clear, bright
view into the distance and Louise’s own bright
future, which is now unobstructed by the demands
of another person. It’s therefore no coincidence
that when Louise turns from the window and the
view, she quickly loses her freedom as well.
Heart Trouble
The heart trouble that afflicts Louise is both a
physical and symbolic malady that represents her
ambivalence toward her marriage and
unhappiness with her lack of freedom. The fact
that Louise has heart trouble is the first thing we
learn about her, and this heart trouble is what
seems to make the announcement of Brently’s
death so threatening. A person with a weak heart,
after all, would not deal well with such news.
When Louise reflects on her new independence,
her heart races, pumping blood through her veins.
When she dies at the end of the story, the
diagnosis of “heart disease” seems appropriate
because the shock of seeing Brently was surely
enough to kill her. But the doctors’ conclusion that
she’d died of overwhelming joy is ironic because it
had been the loss of joy that had actually killed her.
Indeed, Louise seems to have died of a broken
heart, caused by the sudden loss of her muchloved independence.
They are always afflicted with the noise
made by the passing planes.
It's very dangerous to be afflicted with a
sense of inferiority.
Try to anticipate what your child will do and
forestall problems.
To forestall is better than to amend.
The color and the design both bespoke
feminine grace.
His good manners bespoke the gentleman.
Eric, as elusive as ever, was nowhere to be
Number is a crucial but elusive concept in
English teaching and learning.
The crowd was demonstrating
A mighty spirit of revolt heaved
tumultuously within him.
There is no elixir of life in the world.
Keep your mind awake and active; that's the
only youth elixir.
His importunity left me no alternative but
to agree.

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