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"The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin

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Gustavo Marsillac

on 30 November 2012

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Transcript of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin

"The Story of an Hour" By Kate Chopin Author Biography Born in St.Louis in 1851
Her husband died when she was 31
She started writing at 39
Initially she published in magazines and was influenced by Guy de Maupassant and Moliere
Many of her stories are controversial and involve themes of class relations, relationships between men and women, and feminine sexuality
"The Awakening" was banned in many places for crossing social and sexual boundaries, but is now seen as a noteworthy work. "When Chopin was four, her father died in a train accident and she was raised by her french-creole mother and great-grandmother" "In New Orleans where she and her husband lived until 1879, Chopin was at the center of Southern aristocrat life" "When Oscar Died in 1882 Chopin was left with six children and meager financial resources" With the author's milieu in mind we can make new connections in the story "There would be no will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow creature"(Chopin 2). "She Knew she would weep again when she saw the kind tender hands folded in death; the face that never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead"(Chopin 2). "It was he (Richards) 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" (Chopin 1). Is it enough to read a plot for the plot's sake? Authors Write With Purpose A short story is not only a piece of art. It always has a performative purpose. These include entertainment, expression of feelings, education, and others. Kate Chopin's stories usually impact people by making them take a second look at what they accept. In "The Story of an Hour" the reader ponders over the common relationship between men and women and whether or not it is a common choice or an unchangeable way of life. In this way literature can changed the way we think and affect our life. authors also perform actions through their writing by using literary devices and control of plot. In "The Story of an Hour" and "The Storm" Kate Chopin uses irony in many occasions, this not only connects the two stories, but is also a leitmotif in the stories separately. Irony is the most unifying of all the literary devices in this occasion. Official Criticism of "The Story of an Hour" by Barbara C. Ewell Barbara C. Ewell
In the following excerpt, Ewell analyzes “The Story of an Hour,” noting in particular the dramatic tension caused by the shift in point of view towards the end of the story.
. . . .“The Story of an Hour” recounts Louise Mallard’s unexpected response to the reported death of her husband, Brently, in a train accident. Grieving alone in her room, she slowly recognizes that she has lost only chains: “‘Free! Body and soul free!’ she kept whispering.” Then when her husband suddenly reappears, the report of his death a mistake, she drops dead at the sight of him—of “heart disease,” the doctors announce,“of joy that kills.”
Chopin’s handling of details illustrates how subtly she manages this controversial material. Louise Mallard’s heart disease, for example, the key to the final ironies and ambiguities, is introduced in the first sentence, like the loaded gun of melodrama. Page 273 | Top of ArticleBut her illness gradually deepens in significance from a physical detail—a symptom of delicacy and a reason to break the bad news gently—to a deeply spiritual problem. The more we learn about Brently Mallard’s overbearing nature and the greater his wife’s relief grows, the better we understand her “heart trouble.” Indeed, that “trouble” vanishes with Brently’s death and returns—fatally—only when he reappears.
But Chopin also exposes Louise’s complicity in Mallard’s subtle oppression. Her submission to his “blind persistence” has been the guise of Love, that self-sacrificing Victorian ideal. Glorified in fiction Chopin had often decried, this love has been, for Louise and others, the primary purpose of life. But through her new perspective, she comprehends that “love, the unsolved mystery” counts for very little “in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!” As Chopin often insists, love is not a substitute for selfhood; indeed, selfhood is love’s pre-condition. Such a strong and unconventional assertion of feminine independence likely explains Century’s rejection. Its editor, R. W. Gilder, had zealously guarded the feminine ideal of self-denying love, and was that very summer publishing editorials against women’s suffrage as a threat to family and home.
The setting, too, reflecting Chopin’s local-color lessons, buttresses her themes. Louise stares through an “open window” at a scene which is “all aquiver with the new spring life.” A renewing rain accompanies her “storm of grief,” followed by “patches of blue sky.” Then, explicitly “through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air,” “it” comes “creeping out of the sky” upon her. Louise at first dutifully resists and then helplessly succumbs. The sense of physical, even sexual, release that accompanies her acquiescence to this nameless “thing” underpins a vision of freedom that Chopin characteristically affirms as a human right—as natural as generation, spring, or even death.
The transforming power of that insight is echoed in Louise’s altered view of the future, whose length “only yesterday” she had dreaded, but to which she now “opened and spread her arms . . . in welcome.” But it is a false vision. The habit of repression has so weakened Louise that her glimpse of freedom—her birthright—does not empower her, but leaves her unable to cope with the everyday reality to which she is abruptly restored. In her conventional marriage, the vision is truly illusory.
Chopin skillfully manipulates the point of view to intensify the final revelation and the shifting perspectives on Louise’s life. “Mrs. Mallard” appears to us at first from a distance; but the focus gradually internalizes, until we are confined within her thoughts, struggling with “Louise” toward insight. As she leaves the private room of her inner self, our point of view retreats; we see her “like a goddess of Victory” as she descends the stairs, and then, as the door opens, we are identified with the unsuspecting Brently, sharing his amazement at his sister-in-law’s outcry and his friend’s futile effort to block his wife’s view. The final sentence, giving the doctors’ clinical interpretation of her death, is still more distant. That distance—and the shift it represents—is crucial. To outsiders, Louise Mallard’s demise is as misunderstood as is her reaction to Brently’s death. That even the respected medical profession misinterprets her collapse indicts the conventional view of female devotion and suggests that Louise Mallard is not the only woman whose behavior has been misread. . . .
Source: Barbara C. Ewell, “‘A Night in Acadie’: The Confidence of Success,” in Kate Chopin, Ungar Publishing, 1986, pp. 88-91.
Full Text of "The Story of an Hour "The Story of An Hour"
Kate Chopin (1894)
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 was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. 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 the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.
She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.
There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.
She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.
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.
She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except 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.
She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.
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.
Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under the breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.
She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.
There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.
And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!
"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.
Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhold, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."
"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.
Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.
She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.
Someone was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.
When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills
"The Storm" by Kate Chopin Compare with "The Story of an Hour" Connect with Author Find Literary Devices The leaves were so still that even Bibi thought it was going to rain. Bobinôt, who was accustomed to converse on terms of perfect equality with his little son, called the child's attention to certain somber clouds that were rolling with sinister intention from the west, accompanied by a sullen, threatening roar. They were at Friedheimer's store and decided to remain there till the storm had passed. They sat within the door on two empty kegs. Bibi was four years old and looked very wise.
"Mama'll be 'fraid, yes," he suggested with blinking eyes.
"She'll shut the house. Maybe she got Sylvie helpin' her this evenin'," Bobinôt responded reassuringly.
"No; she ent got Sylvie. Sylvie was helpin' her yistiday," piped Bibi.
Bobinôt arose and going across to the counter purchased a can of shrimps, of which Calixta was very fond. Then he returned to his perch on the keg and sat stolidly holding the can of shrimps while the storm burst. It shook the wooden store and seemed to be ripping great furrows in the distant field. Bibi laid his little hand on his father's knee and was not afraid.
II-----Calixta, at home, felt no uneasiness for their safety. She sat at a side window sewing furiously on a sewing machine. She was greatly occupied and did not notice the approaching storm. But she felt very warm and often stopped to mop her face on which the perspiration gathered in beads. She unfastened her white sacque at the throat. It began to grow dark, and suddenly realizing the situation she got up hurriedly and went about closing windows and doors.
Out on the small front gallery she had hung Bobinôt's Sunday clothes to air and she hastened out to gather them before the rain fell. As she stepped outside Alcée Laballière rode in at the gate. She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone. She stood there with Bobinôt's coat in her hands, and the big rain drops began to fall. Alcée rode his horse under the shelter of a side projection where the chickens had huddled and there were plows and a harrow piled up in the corner.
"May I come and wait on your gallery till the storm is over Calixta?" he asked.
"Come 'long in, M'sieur Alcée."
His voice and her own startled her as if from a trance, and she seized Bobinôt's vest. Alcée, mounting to the porch, grabbed the trousers and snatched Bibi's braided jacket that was about to be carried away by a sudden gust of wind. He expressed an intention to remain outside, but it was soon apparent that he might as well have been out in the open: the water beat in upon the boards in driving sheets, and he went inside, closing the door after him. It was even necessary to put something beneath the door to keep the water out.
"My! What a rain! It's good two years sence it rain' like that," exclaimed Calixta as she rolled up a piece of bagging and Alcée helped her to thrust it beneath the crack.
She was a little fuller of figure than five years before when she married; but she had lost nothing of her vivacity. Her blue eyes still retained their melting quality; and her yellow hair, disheveled by wind and rain, kinked more stubbornly than ever about her ears and temples.
The rain beat upon the low, shingled roof with a force and clatter that threatened to break an entrance and deluge them there. They were in the dining room -- the sitting room -- the general utility room. Adjoining was her bed room, with Bibi's couch along side her own. The door stood open, and the room with its white, monumental bed, its closed shutters, looked dim and mysterious.
Alcée flung himself in a rocker and Calixta nervously began to gather up from the floor the lengths of a cotton sheet which she had been sewing.
"If this keeps up, Dieu sait (1) if the levees going to stan' it!" she exclaimed.
"What have you got to do with the levees?"
"I got enough to do! An' there's Bobinôt with Bibi out in that storm -- if he only didn' left Friedheimer's!"
"Let us hope, Calixta, that Bobinôt's got sense enough to come in out of a cyclone."
She went and stood at the window with a greatly disturbed look on her face. She wiped the frame that was clouded with moisture. It was stiflingly hot. Alcée got up and joined her at the window, looking over her shoulder. The rain was coming down in sheets obscuring the view of far-off cabins and enveloping the distant wood in a gray mist. The playing of the lightning was incessant. A bolt struck a tall chinaberry tree at the edge of the field. It filled all visible space with a blinding glare and the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon.
Calixta put her hands to her eyes, and with a cry, staggered backward. Alcée's arm encircled her, and for an instant he drew her close and spasmodically to him.
"Bonté!"(2) she cried, releasing herself from his encircling arm and retreating from the window, "the house'll go next! If I only knew w'ere Bibi was!" She would not compose herself; she would not be seated. Alcée clasped her shoulders and looked into her face. The contact of her warm palpitating body when he had unthinkingly drawn her into his arms, had aroused all the old-time infatuation and desire for her flesh.
"Calixta," he said, "don't be frightened. Nothing can happen. The house is too low to be struck, with so many tall trees standing about. There! aren't you going to be quiet? say, aren't you?" He pushed her hair back from her face that was warm and steaming. Her lips were as red and moist as pomegranate seed. Her white neck and a glimpse of her full, firm bosom disturbed him powerfully. As she glanced up at him the fear in her liquid blue eyes had given place to a drowsy gleam that unconsciously betrayed a sensuous desire. He looked down into her eyes and there was nothing for him to do but gather her lips in a kiss. It reminded him of Assumption.(3)
"Do you remember -- in Assumption, Calixta?" he asked in a low voice broken with passion. Oh! she remembered; for in Assumption he had kissed her and kissed and kissed her; until his senses would well nigh fail, and to save her he would resort to a desperate flight. If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defense, against which his honor forbade him to prevail. Now -- well, now -- her lips seemed in a manner free to be tasted, as well as her round, white throat and her whiter breasts.
They did not heed the crashing torrents, and the roar of the elements made her laugh as she lay in his arms. She was a revelation in that dim, mysterious chamber; as white as the couch she lay upon. Her firm, elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright, was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world.
The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached.
When he touched her breasts they gave themselves up in quivering ecstasy, inviting his lips. Her mouth was a fountain of delight. And when he possessed her, they seemed to swoon together at the very borderland of life's mystery.
He stayed cushioned upon her, breathless, dazed, enervated, with his heart beating like a hammer upon her. With one hand she clasped his head, her lips lightly touching his forehead. The other hand stroked with a soothing rhythm his muscular shoulders.
The growl of the thunder was distant and passing away. The rain beat softly upon the shingles, inviting them to drowsiness and sleep. But they dared not yield.
The rain was over; and the sun was turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems. Calixta, on the gallery, watched Alcée ride way. He turned and smiled at her with a beaming face; she lifted her pretty chin in the air and laughed aloud.
III-----Bobinôt and Bibi, trudging home, stopped without at the cistern to make themselves presentable.
"My! Bibi, w'at will yo' mama say! You ought to be ashame'. You oughtn' put on those good pants. Look at 'em! An' that mud on yo' collar! How you got that mud on yo' collar, Bibi? I never saw such a boy!" Bibi was a picture of pathetic resignation. Bobinôt was the embodiment of serious solicitude as he strove to remove from his own person and his son's the signs of their tramp over heavy roads and through wet fields. He scraped the mud off Bibi's bare legs and feet with a stick and carefully removed all traces from his heavy brogans. Then, prepared for the worst -- meeting with an overscrupulous housewife, they entered cautiously at the back door.
Calixta was preparing supper. She had set the table and was dripping coffee at the hearth. She sprang up as they came in.
"Oh, Bobinôt! You back! My! but I was uneasy. W'ere you been during the rain? An' Bibi? he ain't wet? he ain't hurt?" She had clasped Bibi and was kissing him effusively. Bobinôt's explanations and apologies which he had been composing all along the way, died on his lips as Calixta felt him to see if he were dry, and seemed to express nothing but satisfaction at their safe return.
"I brought you some shrimps, Calixta," offered Bobinôt, hauling the can from his ample side pocket and laying it on the table.
"Shrimps! Oh, Bobinôt you too good fo' anything!" and she gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek that resounded. "J'vous réponds,(4) we'll have a feas' tonight! umph- umph!"
Bobinôt and Bibi began to relax and enjoy themselves, and when the three seated themselves at table they laughed much and so loud that anyone might have heard them as far away as LaBalliéres.
IV-----Alcée LaBalliére wrote to his wife, Clarisse, that night. It was a loving letter, full of tender solicitude. He told her not to hurry back, but if she and the babies liked it at Biloxi, to stay a month longer. He was getting along nicely; and though he missed them, he was willing to bear the separation a while longer -- realizing that their health and pleasure were the first things to be considered.
V-----As for Clarisse, she was charmed upon receiving her husband's letter. She and the babies were doing well. The society was agreeable; many of her old friends and acquaintances were at the bay. And the first free breath since her marriage seemed to restore the pleasant liberty of her maiden days. Devoted as she was to her husband, their conjugal life was something which she was more than willing to forego for a while.
So the storm passed and everyone was happy.
Full text "The Storm"had many similarities to "The Story of an Hour." They both consisted of similar themes and heavily included the literary element of Irony. In general the stories were different, but the plot of the stories were in many ways similar.An example of this similarity is how in "The Story of an Hour" we learn of Mrs.Mallards heart disease which seems to be only a fact of little importance very early in the story, but later returns with very high importance. In the same way in "The Storm" we learn that Calixta's husband and child are away from town during the storm which only later becomes imperative to the plot when she has an affair with another man. There were many obvious connections with the author in "The Storm." The reader very quickly notices the French-English dialect and the French words used in the story. Both Chopin's husband and mother were french-creoles and much of that culture shows in this story. "The Storm" also fits in with Kate Chopin's common themes of relationships between men and women and the role of women. Irony is easily found in this story just as it is in "The Story of an Hour."Furthermore, there are people that can symbolize the usual members of society and how they live. There is also a very accurate sense of atmosphere created by the storm and the return of sunny weather the next day. In the story there is sometimes a slight shift in who could be the narrator and what his opinions are because of changes in points of view. "As she stepped outside Alcée Laballière rode in at the gate. She had not seen him very often since her marriage, and never alone" (Chopin 2) "Bobinots explanations and apologies which he had been composing all along the way, died on his lips as Calixta felt him to see if he were dry, and seemed to express nothing but satisfaction at their safe return."(Chopin 3) "My! Bibi w'at will yo' mama say?! You ought to be ashame'. You oughtn' put on those good pants. Look at 'em! An' that mud on yo' collar! How you got that mud on yo' collar, Bibi? I never saw such a boy!" (Chopin 3). What Does it Matter Unifying the stories also links their theme which cause the reader to think about society and its conventions. Kate Chopin always questions conventions created around women in her stories making them especially appealing to those interested in that topic. In her criticism Ewell goes into detail about Chopin's control of point of view to impact the readers sight and create irony. This causes an even bigger emotional conflict on the reader. Often times when the milieu and background of the author is not known the reader can only get a simple superficial meaning out of the story while if that information is know it allows the reader to dive into a deeper analysis and understand the authors true purpose. Although to superficially entertain readers is a purpose it is almost never the true purpose of an author Yes, but true reading and understanding requires a deeper knowledge that opens up a variety of new interpretations Thanks to this project I have learned a lot about integrity. Kate Chopin had an extremely large amount of strength and dedication to her cause. Even though many people have questioned her work she still believed it strongly and although she wrote very little after the public outcry resulting from "The Awakening," she was a prime example of a person with integrity. INtegrity Of the Joy that Kills
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