The Story of an Hour written by Kate Chopin in 1894 the reader should zone in on the main character Mrs. Mallard’s thoughts and not so much on the excitement of the story but the ending. The insights of different literary elements such as the point of view and tone make this short story omniscient and subtle yet cruel that all contribute to the multiple themes.
According to Journey Into Literature, “a theme is an idea, or message, that lies behind a literary work, the theme tells what the story is about: What is the underlying message? What is driving the action?” (Clugston, 2014). When answering any of these questions, the main theme deals with a dysfunctional marriage and other minor themes including communication, freedom and confinement, time, and mortality. The reason for the dysfunctional marriage comes from males dominating the women of the 19th century and how they were prisoners to their husbands. Women were expected to stay home to cook, clean, and take care of the children. The woman was only a mean of a man’s pleasure and reproduction. She had no rights, no opinions, no sentiments no emotions (Radek, 2001). If they did work and it was not too often and the pay and job was always less compared to a man. There was no mention of true love since marriage was out of convenience, monetary comfort and status during that era.
Communication is essential and its delivery because when Mrs. Mallard was told of her husband’s untimely death on a train and then to find out that he was not dead after all, was more deadly than how you tell it versus what actually happened. Be careful with delicacy and preparation when delivering a message to a sick listener with a heart condition or it can cause further damage. Freedom and confinement deals with how she was suppressed in marriage, having a bad heart, confined to home and suddenly given freedom of it all by her husband passing and just as the freedom was given to her it was taken away with seeing her husband alive. It was all about feeling the joy of freedom which was yanked from her upon reaching of the husband healthy and alive (Jamil, 2009).
Time in this story happens so fast by changing things drastically and dramatically in under a hour. Mrs. Mallard only had less than a hour to process the news of husband passing. In that time she thought of grief and moved quickly into what life by herself would be like. Once seeing the supposedly dead husband alive, just shattered her new images and dreams of a new life. Last there is the mortality which is powerful and told the wrong way will deliver a lethal dosage. Finding out that a person died can be horrific but discovering that it is not true could be worst. The tables turned so soon on Mrs. Mallard’s complex, emotional reaction that it caused her death instead. The final thought of her freedom from the marriage being taken away was too much for her to handle.
One of the literary elements that contributed to the themes was the point of view. There was the use of omniscient third-person so the reader got to understanding of the story by more than just the main character. This was great since to have different views of what or how things were explained throughout the story. The omniscient third-person narrative voice of understanding, compassionate, freeing made it easier to deal with Mrs. Mallard’s behavior and thoughts with at least sensible reasoning. For example, “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name.
But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air”. (9) Even though Mrs. Mallard was not forced into her dysfunctional marriage, the way out was not so nice, but the feelings she had were chasing her down. Mrs. Mallard has finally free after her husband’s death and freedom was scary along with being exciting altogether. Because this was written in third person, the thought of her being sort of selfish, uncaring or most of all not in love with her husband would have made the story much different to swallow.
The second literary term to contribute with the flow of the themes was through the tone. In this story the description of Mrs. Mallard in a lifetime of emotional torment, dawning comprehension. liberating, that ended in ironic detachment. Mrs. Mallard brushes off the idea of love and marriage for the wonderful and glorious idea of at last freedom. The other characters around her such as her sister Josephine and Richards which is the husband’s friend though she was crying her eyes out over the death of her husband and she was actually relieved to be a free woman. At the end, it was understood that she died from sudden shock of seeing her supposedly dead husband alive after all “joy that kills” (23). The only piece of the puzzle that is left unanswered for sure is what really killed her and the narrator left that up to the reader to decide.
In conclusion, in order for a short story to be successful there must be well organized literary elements to support the theme. With a strong point of view and well understood tone the flow of the story with go over well with your audience just as it did for The Story of an Hour.
Chopin, K. (1894). The Story of an Hour. Vogue, pp. 1-3
Clugston, R. W. (2014). Journey into literature (2nd ed.). San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
Jamil, S, S. (2009). “Emotions in ‘The Story of an Hour'” Explicator. pp. 215-220. Retrieved from EBSCO hosting.
Radek, K. (2001). Women in the Nineteenth Century. Women in Literature. Retrieved from: http://www2.ivcc.edu/gen2002/women_in_the_nineteenth_century.htm.