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What is the significance, given what occurs in the story, of  Kate Chopin's short...

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robl2874 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 13, 2012 at 11:58 AM via web

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What is the significance, given what occurs in the story, of  Kate Chopin's short story title "The Story of an Hour"?

I need to do an essay about this question, but don't have any idea about what arguments to write. Help please!!

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 13, 2012 at 11:38 PM (Answer #1)

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First, consider what occurs in this very short short story, whose entire action takes place in about an hour.  The changes that take place in Mrs.  Mallard's life and outlook will guide you to a workable essay topic.

For example, at the beginning of the story, we are introduced to a woman who is happily married (well, at least she has a kind and gentle husband) and learns off her husband's tragic death in a train wreck, which sends her into immediate (and quite) normal grief.  The only interesting aspect of Mrs. Mallard's initial response is that she wept with "wild abandon," perhaps an unusual response for a woman of her era.

Next, after she goes upstairs, she undergoes an epiphany about her life without her husband.  After feeling slightly guilty about allowing certain thoughts to come into her mind, she embraces her new-found freedom by screaming (quietly) "free, free, free!"  In other words, her husband's unexpected death has opened her life and freed her from the repression of marriage.

When she finally responds to her sister's entreaties, Mrs. Mallard goes downstairs only to discover that her husband is alive because he wasn't on the crashed train in the first place.  Her reaction to this news, of course, is to fall dead.

An interesting essay topic is to discuss the growth and ultimate disappointment of Mrs. Mallard in such a short time.  You might argue, for example, that Mrs. Mallard went through a developmental experience that would normally take months or years in less than an hour.  In other words, she lived a virtual life in sixty minutes.

Another interesting topic lies with how she died.  We know that she had a heart condition that her relatives and friends thought could kill her.  When she learns of her husband's death, however, her heart survives, and she goes on to experience thoughts of her life without a husband.  When she discovers that Brently Mallard is indeed alive, she sees her hopes for a self-assertive life gone, and she has a heart attack.  It would make an interesting essay to argue that the heart attack wasn't random but was Mrs. Mallard's way of committing suicide in the face of such disappointing news.  In other words, why did she survive the initial bad news but died with the other (bad) news?

And what makes these topics particularly interesting is that they are discussing a series of events that take only an hour of a person's life.

Hope that helps.

Sources:

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robl2874 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 14, 2012 at 3:12 AM (Answer #2)

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Thank you so much!

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