Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour - A Big Story in a Small Space
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Story of an Hour – A Big Story in a Small Space
Kate Chopin's "Story of an Hour", tells the story of a woman trapped in a repressive marriage, who wants desperately to escape. She is given that chance, quite by accident, and the story tells of the hour in which this freedom is given her. The story is very short (only two pages), so is interesting to look at as a minimalist piece of literature, and the surprise ending offers an opportunity to look at Chopin's use of foreshadowing.
The story is very short, but every word has import in the story and each line has great depth of meaning. It is possible to infer a great deal about the woman's life, even though we are given very little on the surface. A telegraph and a railroad are mentioned in the first paragraph, so there is some idea of the time the story takes place. We are also given her married name and the full name of her husband. The fact that she is referred to only as "Mrs. Mallard", while her husband's full name is given, coupled with what we learn on the second page, gives some indication of the repression she's had to suffer through and the indignity society placed on woman in those times. We also learn in the first paragraph that she lives in a man's world, for, though it is her sister that tells her the news, it is her husband's friend who rushes over with the story. Even after his death, she is confined to the structures she adopted with married life, including the close friend's of her husband.
It can also be assumed that Brently Mallard was fairly well off, because they live in a home with an upstairs, comfortable furnishings, and he has occasion and reason to travel. Also, they can afford a doctor's diagnosis that she has a "heart condition".
The most important idea that is conveyed in the story is summed up in two sentences, near the end of the story, "There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination".