I would say that the conclusion was both not anticipated and appropriate. I didn't expect her to die upon seeing her husband. In rereading it though, the ending seems to make more sense to me. I find it to be artificial if it ends on a completely blissful note regarding Louise's new understanding of self upon hearing about her husband's death. The ending makes sense to me from a feminist point of view in that it shows the struggle of defining women's identity away from a patriarchal society and then within it. When Louise is in a "room of her own," she feels free and empowered. The challenge for her, and for all women, comes in translating this reality to the social setting where men and their conception of women are present.
The first time I read the story, I had no clue that it would end the way it did. I just thought (once we found that her husband was alive) that Mrs. Mallard would be disappointed but still go back to her old way of life.
I do not think that there is a more suitable way to end the story. When she dies, it is appropriate because her dreams have died so she might as well die along with them. It is also appropriate because it allows the narrator to mention how people thought that her heart had burst from joy. This emphasizes how little people understood her feelings.
I think the ending is sad, but it makes a lot of sense given what the author is trying to tell us in this story.
Because there is much foreshadowing in this story, a close reading--and, certainly, a second one--will detect the hints that lead to the denouement of "The Story of an Hour." For instance, in the first sentence, Chopin suggests that Mrs. Mallard's health is precarious, but it also creates an ambiguity about what really troubles Mrs. Mallard:
Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the new of her husband's death.
It strikes the reader odd that Chopin employs the article a. Had she written "heart trouble," the reader could assume that the problem is physical; however, with the addition of the indefinite article [a], the condition of one of some kind; the reader does not know whether the problem is physical of one of the spirit.
Another example of foreshadowing in the exposition of Chopin's story, one that Mr. Mallard may not be dead is in the line,
He had only taken the time to assure himself of its [the telegram] truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender frined in bearing the sad message.
Nevertheless, the masterful use of irony and purposely constructed sentences in the passive voice create an ambiguity that results in the cautious reader's yet being surprised at the ending. Critic Madonne M. Miner argues in her essay,"Veiled Hints: An Affective Stylist's Reading of Kate Chopin's 'The Story of an Hour'," that the story's theme of autonomy and identity are undermined by its grammatical structure. For instance, many sentences begin with the word there, a word that is somewhat vague. And, the repeated use of she rather than Mrs. Mallard's name distances the reader from a particular subject. The passive constructions indicate that Mrs. Mallard does not "possess" her feelings, but is instead "possessed" by them. Even the first sentence is in passive voice. Therefore, with the reader distanced from the story, the question of "a heart trouble" is mitigated, and readers only return to the idea after reading the "surprise ending" that they should have anticipated, after all. For, it is the final irony among many, a "joy that kills."
Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is a skillfully written story whose ending is absolutely suitable, given the clever and subtle devices employed by the author to develop her theme of feminine repression in the Victorian Age and its consequences. Mrs. Mallard's heart condition is a result of her surpressed desires, her repression. When she finally believes that she can be her own person, released from her subjugation to her husband, and she emerges a "new" woman only to learn that she must return to the prison of her repression, her spirit dies.