Literary Elements in The Story of an Hour
In Kate Chopin’s short story, “The Story of an Hour” she uses different kinds of literary elements to clearly define her story and to show all of the meanings behind what happens in the story - Literary Elements in The Story of an Hour introduction. There are many different kinds of literary elements used in this short story but I believe the most important one is irony. Irony is what she used the most throughout the story all the way into the conclusion which was by the far what gave the story a tragic and ironic ending.
If she did not use all of the literary elements that were used in this story then the story would not be a whole and it wouldn’t all come together and make sense. It would be more dull and completely uninteresting and confusing. The literary elements used in this short story help make it surprisingly unpredictable and help it all come together in the end. If you took irony out of the story then there would literally be no point to the story. It would just be a boring thing to read with an ending that’s predictable and dull.
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The only surprising thing to this story which gave it a little bit of livelihood was the ending and if that wasn’t such an ironic part of the story then this wouldn’t even be considered a short story it would just be two pages of dull reading. This short story is about a woman named Mrs. Mallard who just finds out that her husband had been tragically killed in a train crash. She finds out from her sister Josephine and her husband’s friend Richards. She has great heart trouble and once she finds out she just sinks into a chair and falls into a state of mind where she is just acknowledging what she had just heard.
She doesn’t know if she should be happy or sad because she felt free but at the same time also heartbroken. He apparently wasn’t the greatest husband but she doesn’t feel like she can go on without him. She looked outside and noticed all of the nature and the new life she would live. She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life (Chopin 659). In this part of the story it talks about her noticing nature and the new spring life that was ahead of her.
The spring life is supposed to represent her new free life without her husband. So metaphorically her noticing the spring life is her realizing that she has a whole new life by herself calmly and freely. Without using the spring life as symbolism then viewers would just read this and think that she’s so upset she is noticing the great things about her life and the new weather is one of them. Since symbolism is used this whole part of the short story has a whole new view point.
It secretly reveals that she’s realizing she has a whole new happy free life without her husband. It tells you that he wasn’t a good husband and she really didn’t love him. For the viewers that didn’t know about the symbolism being used they just thought she was really upset and looking outside when secretly she is actually happy and noticing her new life. It’s the elements like this that reveal the hidden meanings and make totally different viewpoints on the story. In the very first sentence Kate Chopin gives away two very important parts of the story.
You find out that Louise has a heart condition and you find out about the death of her husband. This sentence is what grabs the attention of the audience. Right away she gets the attention of the audience and uses irony right in the beginning. In Robert Evan’s article, “Literary Contexts in Short Stories: Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour”, he talks about how the opening sentence is very important not only because it grabs the attention, but it also give away two ironic plot details. With stylistic efficiency, Kate Chopin introduces her central character (Mrs. Louise Mallard) and two crucial plot details (Louise’s heart condition, and the very recent death of her husband) in the story’s abrupt, attention-grabbing opening sentence-a sentence whose reference to “heart trouble” seems doubly meaningful and ironic by the time the tale concludes (Evans). There is also one more ironic significance to the very first line of this short story. “…great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death” (Chopin 659). This is significantly ironic because this news is what gently “breaks” her down and causes the conclusion of the story.
Also ironic is the care taken by Louise’s sister Josephine in breaking “as gently as possible” to Louise the news of Mr. Mallard’s death; this “great care” not only contrasts with the sudden revelation that will occur at the story’s conclusion but also seems full of irony in light of Louise’s subsequent reaction to Josephine’s news (Evans). This story is simply based on life’s expectancy and unpredictability. It teaches you the lesson that anything can happen to any one at any time. If he had taken further time to determine the accuracy of he report, the story might have developed very differently than it does, but this is a story that very much concerns life’s unpredictability (Evans). In this line Evan’s explains how if Richards had just waited to tell about the incident then this whole story would have been different. When Louise is sitting in her room staring out the window the story goes into a brief descriptive scene where Chopin describes the nature outside. 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 (Chopin 659).
I agree with Evan’s perspective on this part that the clouds symbolize Louise’s life being temporarily dark, and then patches of blue are new openings in her life are starting to appear. The complex, ambiguous tone of this section of the story is implied by the mixed imagery of “patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds”. Louise’s life is momentarily dark, but new options are beginning to dawn (Evans). It’s the hidden symbolism like this in this story that reveals the meanings of everything and how she is really feeling.
At this point readers are confused whether he was a good husband or now but it clearly shows that he wasn’t a bad one because she is sad. She just doesn’t feel the same way about him anymore so that is why she has a whole new “free” life ahead of her. She is upset and will mourn for a quite a while but down the road she will have a whole new happier life. When Josephine begged Louise to open the door, she was worried about Louise making herself sick because of her bad heart (Chopin 660). The irony in this situation is that Louise is actually feeling happy and accepting the fact that she has the rest of her life to herself.
She is far from feeling ill which Josephine thinks is happening. In reality Louise is feeling great and she’s noticing all of the happy things about life. In Salina Jamil’s article, “Emotions in the Story of an Hour”, she talks about how Louise is feeling throughout the whole story opposed to how people think she is feeling. Because her emotions are no longer bottled, Louise Mallard attends to “the sounds, the scents, the color” in the natural world, and they teach her of the sounds, the scents, and the color within her own soul (Jamil 217).
All of these objects of nature are used as symbols to resemble her new emotions and feelings towards her new bright life that she has to herself. As nature returns to life after winter, so Louise’s emotions return to life after a prolonged winter of patriarchal confinement (Jamil 218). Basically what she is saying here is that winter represents their relationship together as a married couple. Nature dies out in the winter and everything loses interest. After a while in their marriage she lost her feelings for him and just didn’t love him the same way anymore.
Once winter ends the new bright, colorful, and loving spring life comes alive. Once he supposedly died and their relationship ended, she came to life and became happy, bright, and colorful. That is why the spring life is supposed to resemble her “new life”. The use of symbolism here really completes and unfolds the truth behind their marriage. Temporarily she is deeply upset from this traumatic event but deep down within she is happy for her future alone without any tie-downs. Louise is secretly so happy inside that she might even have started crying from tears of joy after she realized her new future life.
When her and her sister walk down those steps, she is by far exploding with happiness rather than being mournful and depressed. That is why she is instantly struck in the heart when she hears the front door opening and sees her husband walk right on in. Her bad heart is what kills her but instead of dying from depression, she dies from great happiness. Once she saw him her heart dropped into her stomach and she then became ill because her future dream life was now ruined. The irony is what makes this short story unpredictable and keeps the reader interested.
As you read along noticing all of the symbolism and other literary elements is what gives away how she really felt throughout the whole story and made things less romantic and emotional. The use of irony was used from the very first line to the very last line. In conclusion the literary devices and elements used in this story were the main key to lead you through the doorway until the end. If you understood the use of symbolism and the metaphors used then you knew throughout the reading that she was happy deep down on the inside.
Although if you did not realize the literary elements then you probably would have a completely different viewpoint and think that this is just another melodrama. Just like in Williams article, “Diverse Responses to Kate Chopin’s: the Story of an Hour”, he notes that a reader- response critic might react differently acknowledging that different audiences might react differently (Williams 97). The main literary element used was irony which took place from the first line to the last. When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease- of joy that kills (Chopin 660).