The first sentence of "The Story of an Hour" reads: "Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death." If we approach this sentence merely as factual communique, we might say that it conveys three messages: Mrs. Mallard suffers from a heart trouble; Mrs. Mallard's husband has died; someone has taken great care to inform Mrs. Mallard of her husband's death. If, however, we analyze the way in which we proceed through the sentence, we discover a more complex layer of meaning. The first word of the sentence, knowing, introduces a participial phrase. A reader expects, and grammatical usage requires, that a primary position participle modify the subject of the subsequent independent clause. Chopin violates our expectations. As we move through the participial phrase and into the indep...
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...s. If we review the story as a whole, we realize that the disquieting effect of the first sentence is heightened as we confront instances of agent disjunction and pronominalization, ambiguity, and diminution. Our positive feelings about Louise's self-assertion are qualified word by word. Although Louise struggles with a few moments of fearful anticipation, her progression toward self-assertion is predicated on "news" and "veiled hints," and she gives herself up to an undefined "something" without stopping to ask if it is or is not a "monstrous joy." As much as we would like to follow her, the route is closed to us. The cumulative experience of the text does not allow such simple complicity.
Madonne M. Miner, "Veiled Hints: An Affective Stylist's Reading of Kate Chopin's 'Story of an Hour'," in The Markham Review, Vol 11, Winter, 1982, pp 29-32
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