I have chosen to compare and contrast a short story, written by Kate Chopin titled “The story of an hour,” and a poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson titled, “In Memoriam. ” I chose these two pieces of work because I was drawn to the short story and when I read the poem it had the same theme of hope in the face of death. The topic, or theme of these particular literary works is death and impermanence. I will compare and contrast the elements of symbolism, point of view, theme, and setting.
The comparison of these particular works will provide deeper insights to the hope that develops within a person when confronted with death, as well as further insight to the symbolism used within the choice of words written by the authors to convey their feelings at that particular time that the work was written. Authors are sometimes likely to deal with the superficial appearance of things rather than showing genuine knowledge of what is actually real (Evans, 2010).
In the poem by Lord Tennyson the genuine knowledge of reality is definitely present, however, the short story by Kate Chopin seems to become somewhat illogical in the end when the wife dies of “joy that kills” In an analysis of short fiction, the text points out that authors will know how to manipulate words but not know how to examine the ideas seriously (Evans, 2010). “In Memoriam,” is a poem that was written in response to the death of a close friend of the author.
His reflection is written to show that hope may be a sustaining factor in the face of death (Clugston, 2010). The author of this work is showing his hopefulness for all, not just himself or the deceased. “That not one life shall be destroy’d, / or cast as rubbish to the void” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 11. 6). Which sounds like he feels as if his friend was “cast as rubbish to the void. ” The author continues on with his words as if he is trying to gain hope for himself, along with others, and hopes that he is not cast to the void as well.
The story of an hour,” is a short story that was written to coincide with the author’s personal quest for freedom, along with upholding a woman’s strength in spite of her adulterous life, and developing hope in the face of death (Clugston, 2010). This author is describing an epiphany of hope that comes in a sudden wave of emotion and confusion. “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know. ” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 2. 2). Mrs.
Mallard had just been given the tragic news of her husband being in the train accident, yet she is trying to fight off the emotions of joy and freedom as best she could. To no avail, she realized that there was so much life and detail in everything around her. The birds were singing in the trees, the clouds piled in the sky above her house, and the sudden feeling of what seemed like joy! Both the poem, and the short story are made up of the emotions that surround death. An elegy, which is a lyric poem about death, has the emotions of uncertainty, confusions, hope, sadness, and even symbolism to show some of these emotions.
In both works there is the mention of spring, which symbolizes birth and new beginnings. The poem says, “I can but trust that good shall fall / At last – far off – at last, to all, / and every winter change to spring” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 11. 6). The short story describes the setting in this detail; “she could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 2. 2). The reference to spring is the hopefulness that both authors have for the future.
In contrast, the poem, compares the spring to a change from winter to spring, which symbolizes the transition from death (winter), to birth (spring), and the continued hope for new beginnings. The difference in these two literary works is how the setting and point of view are written. The poem does not have a real clear setting, and is done in first person. The short story describes the setting, minor details of the characters, and is written in third person which allows for the author to relate with the feelings and thoughts of the other characters as well as the protagonist.
Even though the overall theme of death is what links these two works together, the point of view is what sets them apart. The setting of “In Memoriam” seems to be within the author’s mind or dream. “So runs my dream; but what am I? ” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 11. 6). There is no definite place or time in this poem, whereas the story is set at the protagonist’s house, where she goes to be alone in her bedroom. Once there, she notices the sky and the trees within her yard that are described in detail, also with some added symbolism.
For example; “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” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 2. 2). The patches of blue sky is where the symbolism for calm and peaceful is conveyed. In spite of the day’s events there is a calmness in the air that leads into the coming of Mrs. Mallard’s epiphany. Once I interpreted this symbolism, there was a sense of foreshadowing that I did not relate to the story the first few times I read it.
I would describe the details of this setting as a ‘symbolic setting. ’ The whole picture the reader gets out of the window of Mrs. Mallard’s room is calmness, new beginning, and joy. In contrast to the story, the poem’s lack of setting leaves the reader in wonder. There is only symbolic emotion and metaphors with no clear reason or event. It is clear the author is relating his emotions of sorrow with words, but there lacks clarity in the why or whom. The work is somewhat vague, leaving the emotion of the poem in a generalized form to which anyone could connect.
In the same sense, a reader may not connect with the poem because there is not a specific or personal connection within the writing for the reader to relate to. The reader must have some knowledge of the author outside the poem to fully understand the meaning and symbolism. Continuing, with a thought on symbolism, there is a metaphor in both literary works which compares emotions to a crying baby.
It was not until I read the works side by side that I noticed the reference. In the poem the author writes; “So runs my dream; but what am I? An infant crying in the night; / An infant crying for the light; / And with no language but a cry” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 11. 6). An infant crying for the “light,” is crying for hope, knowledge, truth, and safety (Clugston, 2010). The metaphor in the short story is described as; “… when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 2. 2). Similar to the first metaphor, the meaning is the same, babies cry for comfort and safety.
Both characters are in a state of confusion and are relating their feelings to a baby because they want comfort and safety to reassure them, and they can hold on to their hope. When using the formalist approach to analyze the literary works, I was faced with the questions of; what makes the setting so memorable? How were the characters described, contrasted and developed? Why was the plot intriguing? Did surprise occur? And, what point of view was used? To recap on point of view, as mentioned earlier, the poem “In Memoriam” is written in first person, whereas “The story of an hour’ is written in third person omniscient.
It is not limited omniscient because thoughts and feelings of characters, other than the protagonist, are conveyed to the reader. “Her husband’s friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard’s name leading the list of “killed. ” He had only taken time to assure himself of its truths by a second telegram, and had hastened to forstall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 2. 2).
When first reading the short story, it was not the setting itself that was memorable. The theme and plot is what kept my attention as the reader. However, after analyzing the symbolism, there is more to the meaning within the story that further captured my curiosity. “The story of an hour” is set at the home of the Mallard’s, but is not described in full detail. Just before Mrs. Mallard realizes the importance of her life and freedom, there is detail of the outside setting of the house, followed by Mrs. Mallard being able to see the beauty, life, and colors that everything has to offer.
The narrator even describes the sparrows singing in the trees. Mrs. Mallard never would have appreciated this simple joy previous to the ‘accident,’ and was able to finally feel everything during her hour of personal discovery. Moving on to the question of how the characters are described, contrasted, and developed, the characters in the short story are not described in detail, if at all. There is a slight emotional description of Mr. Mallard’s friend, Richards, but in the poem there is virtually no character description.
Since the poem is from a first person point of view, only the emotions and thoughts are described in detail. The plot of the short story was intriguing because it started off with a surprise, followed by suspense, unlike the poem. The poem starts and ends with simple feelings of hope and uncertainty, where the short story goes on to explain the death and detail of the husband’s accident. The story starts with sudden tragedy, and the suspense develops because the reader knows the story does not end there. It must contain a climax, which is not generally given at the very beginning of a story.
When reading the poem, I was able to relate with the feelings of the author, however, there is not a defined plot or turn of events. The poem starts, as well as ends, with only emotions of hope, uncertainty, and sorrow in the form of metaphors. Figurative language is used to create mood and reveal the theme in the short story. When the narrator described how the sister, Josephine, was going to break the tragic news to Mrs. Mallard, there was an immediate mood of sadness and shock that developed.
“In broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 2. ). The theme of death and tragedy is also reiterated at this point because this is not the first mention of the accident. This is figurative because it does not make a straight forward statement, it implies that the sister is trying to communicate the information, but that alone does not mean that she will succeed in the task. It sets a mood because the reader immediately feels sad for both Mrs. Mallard and her sister who is trying to tell her in the easiest way possible. With regard to the poem, the figurative language here sets a mood, but an unsure mood.
It too reveals a theme of death, but in more of a generalized way and is not specific to a certain character. “oh, yet we trust that somehow good / will be the final end of ill” (as cited in Clugston, 2020, 11. 6). Using the words, “we trust,” and “somehow,” it is difficult to know where the poem’s mood is headed. It could be happy and hopeful because it might show the possible trust that has evolved into a not so tragic death, or it may go on to reveal the “final end,” being unexpected and depressing. It is, however, obvious there will be sorrow throughout the writing.
The figurative language goes on to develop hope with a form of symbolism. There is always a form of hope that develops within the mind and emotions of people when they are confronted by death. Whether it is hope that the deceased did not suffer, hope that they have moved on to a better world, hope that they knew who the people are that cared and will miss them, or hope for one’s self, and that the surviving can find enjoyment within the future, move on and be happy, along with the hope that their own death is far enough away that they will not have to live in fear of confronting death as well.
The writer ends the poem with hope described as an infant would hope, for love and attention. “The story of an hour,” and “In Memoriam,” are two very similar but very different literary works, they use symbolism in the face death to convey the development of hope within the diverse emotions of a person dealing with tragedy that ultimately results in death.
Finally, both authors, Kate Chopin and Lord Tennyson, not only demonstrated genuine knowledge of what reality is without a superficial appearance, but they also were careful to examine the ideas before simply manipulating words to capture attention. These literary pieces of work were a joy to read and evaluate, with the simple idea, “That nothing walks with aimless feet;” (as cited in Clugston, 2010, 11. 6).
Courtney from Study Moose
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