The Age of Realism novelist, Kate Chopin, writes a short story to reveal a negative point of view of marriage. By examining the use of narrator, character and irony in “The Story of an Hour,” the reader is left with a feeling that the author is not fond of the institution.
Kate Chopin was a pioneer of the realistic literary scene. “The Story of an Hour” had a third person limited point of view. The narrator only revealed information about what was going through Louise Mallard’s mind. Chopin executed this point of view considerably well and it enhanced the short story. The third person limited point of view is a great for realistic literature. We all think for ourselves. We aren’t psychics and we can’t know what everyone thinks at every time of the day! Kate Chopin incorporates this idea in her literature up until the end of the story. The unknown leaves a void for the readers to fill. The last paragraph (20) of “The Story of an Hour” said, “When the doctors came they said she had dies of heart disease — of the joy that kills.” Here readers are expected to create their own impressions on how Mrs. Mallard dies: dead individuals cannot speak, so we will never know for sure, but we can make inferences.
The narrator of this story allows readers to gain some insight of their own from the situation. Furthermore, readers only care about Mrs. Mallard’s thought process for her unorthodox actions (like in paragraph ten: “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will…) Other characters’ thoughts would only confuse readers and add a plethora of unnecessary information. The only way Chopin could better the point of view was if she dove deeper into Louise Mallard’s thoughts via first person point of view. We could have gotten more acquainted with Mrs. Mallard and her predicament because she would be telling readers about it, but even then, there is bias in any text of first person point of view. The narrator of the story offers a valuable lesson for readers. Initially as Chopin’s short story begins in paragraph one, the narrator says “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with heart trouble… the news of her husband’s death.” This double-blow of sadness is true to the philosophy of realism– a style of writing that attempts to depict life accurately without idealizing it.
Two of the worst things are happening to Mrs. Mallard: the death of a spouse and her own impeding death attributed to heart disease. The fact that the narrator mentions this at the beginning of the story evokes the value that life isn’t perfect. It throws you in a never-ending cycle of incessant problems and after that, you get sick and die. Chopin develops an article with an increasingly dark message. The narrator borders on cruelty in terms of Mrs. Mallard’s odd reaction to her husband’s death and the sham that was her marriage.
Kate Chopin was a regionalist, a faction of realism that emphasizes specific geographic setting. Writings of regionalism, like “The Story of an Hour” are often sentimental in depictions of characters and locations. Chopin maintained this sentimental value within her character Louise Mallard. Mrs. Mallard is a contained woman. She is referred to as Mrs. Mallard throughout the story until her husband’s death came to full fruition. That is when she adopts the name Louise. This fact makes her name more of a job title. This shows that the author believes marriage is work. It embodies individuals. It consumes people to a point where it changes their names. Mrs. Mallard gains her name back at paragraph thirteen: “Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door– you will make yourself ill. What are you doing Louise.” Marriage is like a jail sentence and the salutation such as Mr. or Mrs. are like shackles– mere reminders that you are an inmate.
At least in this quotation, Louise Mallard is exercising her own free will. Mrs. Mallard probably had no life to live while married, she could not be herself. In this case, her husband is her ball and chain. At the beginning of the story, readers assume that she was old because “Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with heart disease.” (paragraph one) However, this is not the case. Once news came of her husband’s death, she transforms into a new person physically and mentally. Excitement overcomes her like a rapidly festering disease. This is shown in paragraph nine and ten: “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it fearfully… she said it over and over under her breath: free, free, free!” Chopin reveals the sick pleasures that we as humans have: in this case a woman is overjoyed to death at her husband’s death.
Paragraph eight said that, “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even certain strength.” It sounds like her youth is pumped back into her after her husband Brently Mallard’s death but, this young woman has always been there she was just mistreated and never loved the way she deserved. Paragraph thirteen stated that” And yet she had loved him– sometimes. Often she had not.” Anything is better than the tedious, neglectful married life for Louise Mallard. Mrs. Mallard’s response may seem unorthodox, after all, her husband just died and her marriage is over. However, this hour, ironically, is the greatest moment she experiences subsequent to saying “I do.” Mrs. Mallard goes through an emotional rollercoaster in this hour. She has a clear mind and she was free even saying ‘Free! Body and soul free!” in paragraph fourteen.
Chopin wanted to display the great irony that the institution of marriage is not all it’s cracked up to be. This woman’s husband dies and she is happier that he is gone, so she can forge a new life for herself, than she is sad. When Mrs. Mallard sees her husband in the doorway, she dies. Apparently he is not dead” He had been far away from the scene of the accident…” (paragraph nineteen). At this point she dies. She dies a happy woman without the disappointment seeing her live husband after she experienced such great freedom. Once she gets a taste of freedom, she could not go back. Somebody had to go so it is her! Marriage is not just a simple ceremony it is a union that in most cases can weight you down mentally, spiritually and physically. However, at this point in American culture (1894) women were expected to find a man to marry and start a family.
This would secure their well being. The sad reality is that many more American wives at this point and even now are living in the shoes of Mrs. Mallard. This character is not the first and she definitely will not be the last. Marriage is an overrated commitment. The last paragraph, twenty, said “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease– the joy that kills.” This is ironic because she died of joy… the joy of escaping a broken marriage, not because of heart disease. “The Story of an Hour” truly adds a new meaning to “till death do you part.”
Kate Chopin portrayed a negative viewpoint of the institution of marriage in her short story “The Story of an Hour.” She uses the literary devices of narration, characterization and irony to prove that marriage is far from a fantasy but, an incessant, heartbreaking anchor that takes you down with it.