Does Louise of "The Story of an Hour" fulfill all the criteria of a convincing character in the story?There are various criteria for good characterization. How could you prove that she has...

Does Louise of "The Story of an Hour" fulfill all the criteria of a convincing character in the story?

There are various criteria for good characterization. How could you prove that she has fulfilled all those criteria so that she is remembered and attracts audiences after so many years?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good question.  Certain elements help create memorable characters; an examination of them will help determine whether or not Louise can be classified as a memorable literary character. 

Physical characteristics - we know very little about what Louise looks like.  We do know she has a weak heart, which is important to the ending of the story.  The fact that we know so little about her physical features tells us it's not the outside that matters.

Interaction with other characters - She doesn't interact much with anyone else in the story; in fact, she withdraws to her room for the majority of the time we know her. Her sister and a family friend try to console her, without success. The only real interaction takes place in a matter of seconds, as she sees her husband walk in the door.  Again, this lack of social interaction suggests what matters is what's in her mind.

Interaction with environment - As with several other elements here, Louise experiences little of this.  That probably means her literal environment doesn't matter.  In the truest sense of the word, this is accurate--though she feels like a prisoner, she is perfectly free in terms of her environment. 

Internal thoughts or philosophy -  This is the core of who Louise is, why readers sympathize or empathize with her, and why she dies at the end of this very short story.  She understands that, without the figurative shackles of her marriage, she can finally be "free. Body and soul free!"  Her husband is not cruel, and "she had loved him--sometimes"; but she will never be free to choose for herself or speak her own mind as long as she is married to him.

"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."

Louise Mallard is lost in the reverie of being someone new, someone she has not been allowed to be, now that her husband is gone.  "There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself."

Revelations about the past - Again, the readers are allowed to catch a glimpse of life as Louise must have lived it.  No particular specifics are given, but we certainly get the flavor of her life before the train wreck. 

Way of speaking - There is nothing distinctive about her words or sentence structure; however, the narrator's description of Mrs. Mallard's inner thoughts are quite unique.  She is expressive and intriguing and honest.

Considering those elements, Louise Mallard is a memorable character in a very, very short and potentially forgettable story.


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Perhaps what makes Louis Mallard of "The Story of an Hour" memorable is her emergence of self in the one hour's narrative.  That is, Mrs. Mallard moves in one hour from a woman who is ambiguously "afflicted with a heart trouble" to a woman with "a feverish triumph in her eyes," who carries herself "unwittingly like a goddess of Victory."

Her personal evolution is highly notable and memorable.  Louis Mallard begins the narrative with a specific condtion that interferes with her heart; however, after the supposed death of her husband, through the carefully developed release of Mrs. Mallard's sense of self, this problem with her heart is relieved.

Very cleverly, Kate Chopin depicts the stages of Louis Mallard's self-assertion:  Upon hearing the news of her husband's death, she weeps with "wild abandonment," then she goes to her room and "would have no one follow her.  She sits in the bedroom and stares out the west window (the West is symbolic of the future).  In the bedroom, new ideas are given birth (women gave birth in their bedrooms) as she notices patches of blue sky.   Interestingly almost each sentence of Chopin's description begins with the pronoun she which indicates the emergence of the female sense of self, independent from a husband--no longer is "Mrs. Mallard" used.  When she emerges from the bedroom, her personal name, "Louise," is used to describe the main character who has achieved her own identity, her sense of self.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the essence of this question rests on what is defined as a "convincing character" in literature.  The exact criteria would be something that individuals select for themselves and in what they believe as meeting the qualities of "convincing."  I think that one such condition has to be the creation of empathy or a sense of feeling on the part of the reader for the character.  In this light, I think that Louise does meet the conditions of a convincing character.  One does feel for her.  Chopin does a great job in my opinion of presenting how Louise, and all women in her situation at the time, must act and must behave.  Upon hearing the news of her husband's death, it is almost understood that tears must be shed.  Yet, we learn more of her character when Louise undergoes personal reflection in terms of understanding and appreciating her own voice and the validation of her own experience.  It is in this light that sympathy can be garnered for Louise.  Who would not identify with someone who has been given an opportunity to find their voice, to reclaim their identity, and to be able to get a "second chance?"  It is in this vein where I think Louise becomes a convincing character, one where empathy is developed with the story's ending.

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The Story of an Hour

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