Kate Chopin’s the “Story of an Hour” includes a vast amount of literary devices. Irony, foreshadowing, personification, imagery, symbolism, metaphor and repetition are some of the major literary techniques used by Chopin within this short story about a woman named Mrs. Mallard. Although the story covers only one hour in the life of the main character, the use of these various literary techniques present the theme of the story to the reader in a very entertaining manner.
The “Story of an Hour” is primarily a story of great irony. Irony is first demonstrated when Mrs. Mallard who has a serious heart condition finds out the news about the sudden death of her husband. Although she appears upset and goes to her room to grieve his death alone, she stares out the window and realizes that she has many new opportunities ahead of her now that her husband is gone. Ironically, Mrs. Mallard dies at the end of the story because she is disappointed to find out her husband is still alive.
The ultimate irony is that with her death Mrs. Mallard is finally free from her sad repressive life. In the end the doctors says she dies not from heart trouble but from “the joy that kills.” Ironically, it is not the joy of seeing her husband alive, but her realization that the joy she felt for only one hour is over.
Chopin uses foreshadowing in the first sentence when she writes, “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.” It’s clear at this point that something bad is going to happen to Mrs. Mallard once we are informed that she has heart trouble. Another example of foreshadowing is when Mrs. Mallard is observing things out the window and sees all the new chances and opportunities that will result from the death of her husband.
Personification is demonstrated in one of the lines of the story that states: “she was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression”. In this statement Chopin gives human qualities to the lines in Mrs. Mallard’s face. This again shows how depressing her life really was with her husband.
Visual imagery is used in the story by Chopin to help the reader create an image of the words and scenes she is presenting in the story. As an example of this imagery she writes: “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”. With imagery, she also helps us feel the miserable world Mrs. Mallard lived in. “She carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of victory”.
Chopin also includes symbolism as a literary device when Mrs. Mallard stares out the window of her room. The view through the window is symbolic of a new world with no restrictions and limitations now that her husband is dead. She also used symbolism when she said, “patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds.” Her ultimate death due to a heart attack is also symbolic of the loss of her love for her husband.
The basic symbol of the story involves the new life she would be able to live alone. Divorce was rare in Mrs. Mallard’s days, but the news of her husband’s death offers her a chance at a new beginning. “She carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of victory.” This symbolizes the strength that Mrs. Mallard had during this time period, and shows that she will conquer obstacles in her future. Chopin uses repetition to emphasize a particular idea.
For instance, when she said, “free, free, free,” and again when she writes, “Free! Body and soul free!” By repeating the word free, we feel how overjoyed Mrs. Mallard is over the new experiences and freedom she will now have without her husband. Chopin also uses metaphors such as “storm of grief;” “open window;” and “new spring life” to make her point about the changes that Mrs. Mallard feels due to the death of her husband.
In summary, the “Story of an Hour” is a short story that reminds us of how really short life is. The theme seems to be to enjoy life to it’s fullest and make changes in your life before it’s too late. The various literary devices used by Chopin help the reader feel the emotion of the story and as a result make the story more meaningful and entertaining. These literary techniques provide the reader with much more meaning than what is simply being written by the author.
Without these literary devices, the story would be less effective. The story is entertaining and in the end seems predictable but is ironic and surprising while you are reading it. Chopin does a great job of presenting the emotions and feeling of the characters, especially Mrs. Mallard. Her uses of the various literary techniques help convey and enhance the story to the reader.