The Story of the Hour, is a short story by Kate Chopin that literally tells, “the story of the hour”. In this hour, an older woman learns that her husband has been killed. Over joyed by her husband’s death, she dies of heart failure when she sees him in the flesh. The story is ironic. The irony is echoed throughout the piece. The obvious irony is that she dies as a result of her joy at his death. Irony can also be seen in the use of language throughout the piece. Chopin uses literary styles such as imagery and oxymoron to describe the hour and the dramatic change in plot.
After being told that her husband is dead, the main character, Mrs. Mallard escapes to be alone. However, during this escape is when the transformation occurs. She sits in an armchair and “physical exhaustion… seemed to reach her soul” (Chopin 1894, line 15). Once the soul is met the mood of the story begins to change. This can be observed through the imagery of the piece as well as irony. “The tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (Chopin 1894, line 16-17). It is ironic that the trees would be described as “quivering” with life during a moment that should be saddening and heart felt. Also, the suggestion of new life makes the reader associate this with spring, rejuvenation, and rebirth. However during mourning, imagery is supposed to bes dark, gothic, and depressing. The word choice during the scene identifies the shift in mood and change in plot. Chopin uses language to hint to the reader the swing in emotion felt by Mrs. Mallard at the realization of her husband’s death.
Another shift can observed in the language further down in the story as Mrs. Mallard transforms from happy to sad. The reader observes Mrs. Mallard looking out the open window at the blue sky. From here, Mrs. Mallard goes from saddened to blank. This climax between emotions is described as “subtle and elusive” by Mrs. Mallard, yet the reader can understand that something is amidst, (Chopin 1894, line 30). Before it can be understand that she is laughing hysterically, the image is given to the audience that, “her bosom rose and fell tumultuously” (Chopin 1894, line 32). However, the reader doesn’t fully understand the change in atmosphere until she utters, “free” (Chopin 1894, line 34). In the next paragraph the audience gets the oxymoron, “monstrous joy” (Chopin 1894, line 37). This also preludes the reader to the end of the story. The monster then foreshadows its self at the end of the story.
The “elixir of life” (Chopin 1894, line 41), is the last precluding clue the audience receives from her demise. Through the use of language such as oxymoron, imagery, and irony, Chopin was able to provide the audience with “the story of the hour”. Although the concept that Mrs. Mallard would find joy and happiness of her husband’s death was slightly eluted to and someone surprising, the ending result caught the audience off guard. The reader did not learn the Mrs. Mallard died until the final lines of the story. Furthermore, Chopin was able to use language to give the story life, compelling the reader with surprise and dramatic change in plot.
In, The Story of the Hour, by Kate Chaplin, the author utilizes language and imagery to allude to the dramatic ending. The reader is caught in the subtle moments of the situation. We see the details of nature. The reader is forced to take in the sky, the trees, and the wind. While the reader is caught in the image of nature and the character’s surroundings, the reader is then able ignore some the subtle hints. In these hints the author uses language well. She utilizes a mixture of adjectives and action words to describe the change in scene. This takes the audience away from death. The audience is not able to ask questions that would arise in this type of situation. Although she is now a widow is she left to raise children alone? How will she provide from the family? Who will she call first? The audience expects the character to go into a deep depression or sense of devastation, loss, or mourning. Instead the reader is forced to focus attention on the elements of the surrounding and use of language to see the dramatic change in the story before it happens. The literature reflects the importance of language in a story. The use of language and how the images and words are formed is what creates the setting and the story. The imagery, setting, and use of language is what made this story distinct and unique from other writers of her time.
Chopin, K., (1894). The Story of the Hour