How does Kate Chopin use plot, irony, and symbolism to highlight her theme in "The Story of an Hour"?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Themes: identity vs. enslavement (in this case, by marriage)

Plot: one of the main ideas presented through the sequence of events in this story is the main character's journey from a sense of enslavement and lack of personal identity, to a sense of freedom.  When she first hears of her husband's death, Mrs. Mallard is filled with grief.  But over the course of the next hour, she realizes that his death is exactly what she needed to finally be herself - rather than just his wife.

Symbolism: Nature - happening outside her window, nature seems to mimic Louise's feelings inside the house.  Her grief is matched by rain, and her movement to freedom and joy are paralled outside by the sky clearing up.

Irony: There exists both situational irony and verbal irony in this short story.  Mrs. Mallard is introduced as having a "heart condition."  Upon first reading, we assume this means her heart is physically weak or possibly diseased.  When she hears her husband is dead - she is sure she will die of grief.  But at the finale of the story - just when she has come to the realization that her husband's death is the best thing that could have happened to her, he shows up, alive, and she then she drops dead.  Does she have a heart attack?  Or did grief actually kill her in the end?  By this point in the story we have to wonder, if grief killed her, than ironically it no longer the grief over the death of her husband, but rather, the fact that he is still alive.

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The Story of an Hour

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