Upon hearing the news of Brently Mallard's tragic railroad accident death in the newspaper office, his friend Richards rushes to the Mallards' house, where he and Mrs. Mallard's sister Josephine gently inform the weak-hearted Mrs. Mallard of Brently's death. In response, Louise Mallard weeps openly before going to sit alone in her room.
Exhausted, Mrs. Mallard sits motionless in her armchair by the window and looks at all the beauty of the outside world, occasionally sobbing. She is young, with a calm and strong face, but she stares dully into the sky while she waits nervously for a revelation. Finally, she realizes despite her initial opposition that she is now free. Terror leaves her eyes while her pulse beats faster.
Mrs. Mallard knows that she will mourn her loving husband's death, but she also predicts many years of freedom, which she welcomes. She begins planning her future, in which she will live without the burden of other people. She loved her husband, more or less, but love is nothing to her when compared to independence, she decides, as she murmurs, "Free! Body and soul free!"
Josephine asks Mrs. Mallard to let her enter because she is afraid that the grieving widow will make herself ill, but Mrs. Mallard is actually imagining the happiness of the years ahead. In fact, only the day before she had feared living a long life. Triumphantly, she answers the door and goes downstairs with her arm around Josephine's waist, where Richards awaits.
At this moment, Brently Mallard comes in the front door, having been nowhere near the train disaster. Richards moves in front of him to hide him from seeing his wife when she cries out. By the time the doctors arrive, she has died from "heart disease," purportedly from "the joy that kills."
Chopin tackles complex issues involved in the interplay of female independence, love, and marriage through her brief but effective characterization of the supposedly widowed Louise Mallard in her last hour of life. After discovering that her husband has died in a train accident, Mrs. Mallard faces conflicting emotions of grief at her husband's death and exultation at the prospects for freedom in the remainder of her life. The latter emotion eventually takes precedence in her thoughts. As with many successful short stories, however, the story does not end peacefully at this point but instead creates a climactic twist. The reversal--the revelation that her husband did not die after all-- shatters Louise's vision of her new life and ironically creates a tragic ending out of what initially appeared to be a fortuitous turn of events. As a result, it is Mr. Mallard who is free of Mrs. Mallard, although we do not learn whether the same interplay of conflicting emotions occurs for him.
Chopin presents Mrs. Mallard as a sympathetic character with strength and insight. As Louise understands the world, to lose her strongest familial tie is not a great loss so much as an opportunity to move beyond the "blind persistence" of the bondage of personal relationships. In particular, American wives in the late nineteenth century were legally bound to their husbands' power and status, but because widows did not bear the responsibility of finding or following a husband, they gained more legal recognition and often had more control over their lives. Although Chopin does not specifically cite the contemporary second-class situation of women in the text, Mrs. Mallard's exclamations of "Free! Body and soul free!" are highly suggestive of the historical context.
Beyond the question of female independence, Louise seems to suggest that although Brently Mallard has always treated their relationship with the best of intentions, any human connection with such an effect of permanence and intensity, despite its advantages, must also be a limiting factor in some respects. Even Louise's physical description seems to hint at her personality, as Chopin associates her youthful countenance with her potential for the future while mentioning lines that "bespoke repression and even a certain strength." Although neither her sister nor Brently's friend Richards would be likely to understand her point of view, Louise Mallard embraces solitude as the purest prerequisite for free choice.
Mrs. Mallard's characterization is complicated by the fleeting nature of her grief over her husband, as it might indicate excessive egotism or shameless self-absorption. Nevertheless, Chopin does much to divert us from interpreting the story in this manner, and indeed Mrs. Mallard's conversion to temporary euphoria may simply suggest that the human need for independence can exceed even love and marriage. Notably, Louise Mallard reaches her conclusions with the suggestive aid of the environment, the imagery of which symbolically associates Louise's private awakening with the beginning of life in the spring season. Ironically, in one sense, she does not choose her new understanding but instead receives it from her surroundings, "creeping out of the sky." The word "mallard" is a word for a kind of duck, and it may well be that wild birds in the story symbolize freedom.
To unify the story under a central theme, Chopin both begins and ends with a statement about Louise Mallard's heart trouble, which turns out to have both a physical and a mental component. In the first paragraph of "The Story of an Hour," Chopin uses the term "heart trouble" primarily in a medical sense, but over the course of the story, Mrs. Mallard's presumed frailty seems to be largely a result of psychological repression rather than truly physiological factors. The story concludes by attributing Mrs. Mallard's death to heart disease, where heart disease is "the joy that kills." This last phrase is purposefully ironic, as Louise must have felt both joy and extreme disappointment at Brently's return, regaining her husband and all of the loss of freedom her marriage entails. The line establishes that Louise's heart condition is more of a metaphor for her emotional state than a medical reality.
Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “The Story of an Hour” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Before you begin, however, please get some useful tips and hints abouthow to use PaperStarter.comin the brief User's Guide…you'll be glad you did.• To Refresh : Here is a Full Plot Summary of “Story of an Hour” by Chopin •
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 “The Story of an Hour" as a Feminist Text
Author Kate Chopin is well-known for some of the most seminal feminist stories and novels in the Western canon. “The Story of an Hour" is one such text. In this story, Chopin addresses many of the concerns that are central to feminism, including the determination and expression of a woman’s unique identity distinct from the identity of her husband and the right of a woman to identify and experience her own interests. While there is an aspect of this story that is controversial—namely, that Mrs. Mallard feels excited after learning that her husband has died—the reader can empathize with Mrs. Mallard’s feelings and support her. For more on this topic, check out this oand its discussion of marriage and women's roles.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 : The Theme of Guilt in “The Story of an Hour”
One of the aspects of “The Story of an Hour" that is compelling—both fascinating and repellent—to the reader is the fact that Mrs. Mallard feels excitement after learning that her husband has been killed in an accident. Mrs. Mallard anticipates the possibility of finally being able to live for herself, rather than for or in relation to her husband. Rather than condemn Mrs. Mallard for such an emotion, the reader empathizes with Mrs. Mallard. Although her husband did not appear to be abusive, the reader intuitively understands that Mrs. Mallard felt oppressed in her marriage and now, for the first time ever, she feels the possibility of constructing her own identity and identifying possibilities for her own future.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 :Suspense, Shock, and Surprise : Narrative Devices in “The Story of an Hour”
One of the most commendable aspects of Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour" is the fact that the author is able to manipulate suspense, shock, and surprise in a tale that is extraordinarily compact. In this essay, the writer offers a close reading and detailed explication of the story, paying particular attention to the techniques that Chopin uses to build up these three emotions and tensions in the reader. Specific techniques that will be examined include characterization,
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 : Issues Surrounding Mrs. Mallard’s Death
Upon learning that her husband did not, in fact, die in a train wreck as she had been told, Mrs. Mallard has a sudden heart attack. This detail, while seemingly minor, does not escape the interest of the astute reader. In a short, compact story, the reader has understood intimately the strange excitement that Mrs. Mallard felt upon learning that her husband has died, and her death of a heart attack is a symbolic representation of the loss that is represented by the knowledge that she will not be able to live the life that she imagined for herself. In this essay, the writer will argue that no other outcome was possible for Mrs. Mallard. Having glimpsed the possibility of a life of her own, her husband’s survival necessarily caused her own death.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 The Role of the Reader in “The Story of an Hour”
“The Story of an Hour" is a piece of literature that does not allow the reader to be ambivalent or indifferent about its events. The reader will have a reaction of one extreme or another—either extreme recrimination for Mrs. Mallard or profound empathy for her. In this essay, the writer examines the role of the reader in Chopin’s story. Far from playing a spectator role, the reader of this story must become engaged and must take a moral stance.
• To Refresh : Here is a Full Plot Summary of “Story of an Hour” by Chopin •
Click here for an excellent article on “The Story of an Hour” … Also, be sure to take a look at other PaperStarter entries on various works by Kate Chopin, including The Awakening and Desiree's Baby and The Storm*
This list of important quotations from “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Story of an Hour” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes from “The Story of an Hour” contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“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." (para. 1)
“She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance…." (para. 3)
“There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully." (para. 9)
“She said it over and over under the breath: ‘free, free, free!" (para. 10)
“She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her…." (para. 10)
“She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her…." (para. 11)
“But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would be hers absolutely." (para. 11)
“And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome." (para. 11)
“There would be no one to live for in those coming years. She would live for herself." (para. 12)
“When the doctors came, they said she had died of heart disease—of the joy that kills." (para. 20)
Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour." http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/webtexts/hour/