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The setting in "The Story of an Hour" and "Popular Mechanics" both deal the social environment of a couple's relationship. For example, "Story of an Hour" tells of a wife by the name of Mrs. Millard, who has heart disease, who discovers her husband had died in a railroad accident from the lips of her sister Josephine. But, Mrs. Millard reacts in a different manner most confusing. "When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" (Chopin 15). Instead of feeling sorrow for the death of her husband, she leaps into a state of joy because freedom steps in her life. Likewise, in "Popular Mechanics," the couple struggle through a relationship. "He was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came to the door. I'm glad you're leaving! I'm glad you're leaving! She said. Do you hear?" (Carver 264). Though one never knows if the couple was married, the social environment in the relationship between the two individuals was argumentative which ends in the collapse of the relationship such as Mrs. Millard's relationship with her husband. In short, the settings in "The Story of an Hour" and "Popular Mechanics" demonstrate the similar collapse of each couple's relationship.
Even though "Story of an Hour" and "Popular Mechanics" has similar settings in the stories, there are differences in the setting of each story. For example, in "The Story of an Hour," the setting takes place somewhere in the 1900s during the day. "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 15).
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Chopin used setting in "Story of an Hour" to convey the theme of her story. For example, she used social environment of the 1900s in order to develop the theme. Mrs. Millard was an upper-middle class woman who was depressed because she had nothing to do. She lived a life not too rich or too poor so she had nothing of importance to worry about. But, when she hears of her husband's demise in a railroad disaster, she leaps for joy for now she can live her own life. "And yet she had loved him-sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter!" (Chopin 16). Mrs. Millard wanted to live her own independent life instead of living behind the shadow of her husband. But, when she sees that Mr. Millard is alive and well, she dies. "When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease of joy that kills" (16). Mrs. Millard realized that she would have to go back to the depressed life she once lived, and she did not want to live her life any longer. The theme of "The Story of an Hour" conveys the logic that if one does not truly love his or her partner, the relationship will not result in a joyful relationship. In summary, the setting of "The Story of an Hour" helps develop the theme that a marriage cannot end well if one individual does not truly love his or her partner.
In "Popular Mechanics," Carver used the post-winter season as the setting for the story. For example, in the introduction, Carver describes the landscape as being filled with dirty water because of the snow melting. "Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water. Streaks of it ran down from the little shoulder-high window that faced the backyard" (Carver 264). The snow melted because spring was approaching. Carver used the season of post-winter to convey the story's theme. Spring would consider the start of life as plants start to blossom and grow all through spring. As the season changes, the plants grow on continuously. But, as the season approaches fall, the plants start to lose leaves and shrivel. By the time winter approaches, the plants have died. In the story, the couple argues over who will get the baby and get into a tug of war with the baby. "But he would not let go. He felt the baby slipping out of his hands and he pulled back very hard. In this manner, the issue was decided" (265). The baby died from being pulled apart and therefore goes along with the setting of the baby's demise. Part of the theme developed here is the downfall of the family life. If the baby were to survive, though, he or she would be traumatized from his or her parents constant quarreling and eventual divorce. Carver uses the winter setting to explain how the death of family values leads to the influential upbringing that the child or children will receive. In other words, "Popular Mechanics" tells of how the family ethics of society are dying as the years go by.
Carver uses darkness as the setting in "Popular Mechanics" in order to convey the theme of the story. The story starts off as the day goes into the late evening. " where it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too" (264). The setting changes from daylight to the late evening. The inside of the house is described as getting dark too because of the act the couple will commit to the baby. Carver also describes darkness in the kitchen where the couple struggle over who gets the baby. "The kitchen window gave no light. In the near-dark he worked on her fisted fingers with one hand and with the other hand he gripped the screaming baby up under an arm near the shoulder" (265). Carver described the kitchen as being void of light for the kitchen is the place where the couple will tear the baby in half. The theme of the story develops by using the late evening. Wherever there is darkness, no life can emerge from it. Carver also used the kitchen as being void of light for there the couple struggle pulling the baby until the baby dies. The theme develops teaching that modern-day families are void of ethics and values in society. The darkness filling up in the house shows that the family has no values whatsoever therefore no true light can present itself. In summary, the theme of "Popular Mechanics" conveys the message that many families in the society we live in have no moral values and therefore, darkness fills up in the houses of the families.
In conclusion, similar and different settings are used in both stories in order to convey the theme of each story. The relationship can never survive if true love is not based on it. Social environments, seasons, and the late evening of the day helped make the setting of each story develop the theme. In short, a relationship cemented on untrue love will not endure for good.
Carver, Raymond. "Popular Mechanics." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. 264.
Chopin, Kate. "The Story of an Hour." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 7th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. 15.