Irony in “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin

Death can have different meanings for a person: sometimes people get joy from it, but most of the time, they do not. Most widows would have reacted mournfully to the death of their husbands, but Louise responded nonchalantly. The main character rejoiced at the death of her husband because she believed that she had received the freedom that she had lost with her husband. The protagonist believes that she has no freedom; her husband enslaves her. The anecdote begins with Mrs. Mallard, who believes that she is a free woman and has a fresh start to a new life. In Story of an Hour the author demonstrates a patriarchal society in which male dominance is expected, where women are considered weak without male authority.

In Story of an Hour, the reader can discover that Mrs. Mallard has heart problems, so when her husband dies, her family has to be especially careful to report her husband’s death; that he died in a train accident. At first, the main character feels numb and initially in complete shock and wants to be completely alone to process her loss. As soon as Mrs. Mallard is left alone, she notices something she has not seen for a long time. She notices the attractive beauty of nature outside her window, after that moment, she begins to feel optimistic about life (Chopin 284). She starts thinking about all the good times she will have now that her husband is dead. Mrs. Mallard knows she will regret everything when she sees her husband’s corpse at the funeral, although there is no evidence in the text that her husband was rude or abusive towards her. In what sense is the irony of the situation manifested already at this stage, confronting the event of death with incredible joy, which misleads the reader. Louise does not seem to be sure how Mrs. Mallard feels about her husband. Although at the end of the story she seems to look ahead like a widow, but when she leaves her room, her husband opens the door and walks into the house (Chopin 285). Mrs. Mallard then dies of a heart attack and is unexpectedly assumed to have died of joy, suggesting that she was so happy to see her husband alive that she died of shock.

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The story uses the irony of the situation to build the plot and emotions of the characters almost into the grotesque. Dramatic irony, in this case, is almost absent: the reader learns about the characters’ feelings as they become aware of them, and the characters are also not ready for plot twists (Jamil 216). Verbal irony manifested itself only on the author’s part, both concerning the characters and about the reader. First of all, when Mrs. Mallard heard the news and locked herself in the room, the author said that misfortune was creeping up on her, which she met with a calm face (Chopin 284). As will be revealed in the following paragraphs, a sense of freedom creeping in, which Mrs. Mallard was pleased about.

The irony here serves to describe an impossible situation in every sense. First, the hard news in the family is met with the joy of the wife. Secondly, she does not have time to show her joy in front of her sister, leaving her with this secret forever. Thirdly, Mrs. Mallard wanted to be free and found freedom from her husband, but not as much as she wanted (Chopin 285). In fact, irony appears in the course of the plot itself, from the author’s pen, which surprises both the characters themselves and the reader himself (Deneau 212). The rest of the story is relatively short, and at such a short distance, there is practically no verbal interaction between the characters; many scenes are left behind the scenes. In this story, roles are constantly changing on the part of the reader: if the husband begins as a victim of circumstances, then later, from the thoughts of Mrs. Mallard, it is possible to assume his bad character. His absence from the scene of the tragedy only leads to other thoughts, which no longer make any sense after the death of Mrs. Mallard.

As a result, the husband gained freedom from marriage, whose thoughts and actions are not disclosed in this work. From the point of view of other characters – sisters and Richards – one can see only fear and surprise. Their broader and deeper reaction of the author did not let readers know, focusing the story entirely on Mrs. Mallard. Even from the point of view of revealing the character of Mrs. Mallard, there is a certain degree of irony. Although initially, having learned about the death of her husband, the heroine tried to react to this event as usual, immediately burst into tears. However, even the author emphasizes that in such situations, wives are shocked and refuse to believe in such news (Chopin 283). In addition, Chopin does not even give a name to the main character, emphasizing how little she played the role of a family. This liberation is essential even in the historical perspective of the patriarchal foundation, but the irony of the situation again turns everything upside down. At such a short distance, the author allows the reader to parse the story into small pieces and deeply analyze each life turn, the consequences of which can last only one hour. After this hour, the situation can change diametrically, and sometimes so much that the heart cannot stand it.

Kate Chopin’s short Story of an Hour uses irony, found throughout the story to explain the theme of “nothing is as it seems”. The changes Mrs. Mallard goes through in things like her condition, attitude, and personality are also riddled with irony. Mrs. Mallard going from depression to ecstasy despite devastating news about her husband is ironic, as is her shocked reaction and her death upon seeing her husband, Mr. Mallard. The author’s use of irony allows the reader to understand the broader meaning of the story and message, being able to appreciate the actions and thoughts of the characters. The difference is that the reader has more time than one hour, which can completely change a life and take it away.

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Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. The story of an hour. Jimcin Recordings, 1981.

Deneau, Daniel P. “Chopin’s the Story of an Hour.” The Explicator, vol. 61, no. 4, 2003, pp. 210-213. Web.

Jamil, S. Selina. “Emotions in the Story of an Hour.” The Explicator, vol. 67, no. 3, 2009, pp. 215-220. Web.

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