Kate Chopin's use of irony in her short story, "The Story of an Hour," stands in direct contrast to the subtle manner in which she tells the story. Strong use of irony in a short story yields more honesty in a character. She achieves this quality by immediately setting the premise, that Mrs. Mallard's fragile health would ultimately lead to her demise, upon receiving the news of her husband's death. Before an immediate assumption can be made about Mrs. Mallard, Chopin begins to start another path. This divergence is apparent at the point of the story where Mrs. Mallard's reaction is anticipated, yet, "She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance" (170). Mrs. Mallard does indeed grieve the loss of her husband, but, "When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone" (170). Chopin discharges the inner feelings of her character simultaneously with those that are expected of her.
For many people, an event of such significance as the death of a loved one, would be considered their darkest day. An individual's loss may lead to a bitter and pessimistic view of their world, finding fault with anything within even the most glorious of days. Paragraph five is vivid with pleasant imagery, as "new spring life," and "delicious breath of rain," become symbolic of Mrs. Mallard's release of her inner feelings. Hardly the reaction one might have expected. There are new hopes and aspirations ahead of her, not the direct opposite as one would assume. Yet, Mrs. Mallard is fearful of the feelings overcoming her, as if repressing a dirty thought. As if hearing the voice of society...
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... the entire story, as Chopin writes:
And yet she loved him ---sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! (171)
This paragraph could not be anymore honest than it already is. It is plain to see how this short story challenged the thinking at the time. Great writers are the ones that have the foresight, and chutzpah to challenge the establishment. To break down the harmful norms dictated by a select few. Maybe the great irony lies in how many people felt the same way as Mrs. Mallard, but did not seize the opportunity. It is perhaps more shocking to see how far society has come, only to see how far it has left to go.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. (1894). 31 Apr. 2003.
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