illustration of a woman in a dress standing as if she were in shock

The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

Start Free Trial

How does the author reveal the irony in the story?What literary devices does she use to to reveal the irony?

Mrs. Mallard is excited that her husband has died.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kate Chopin reveals irony in a variety ways in this story due to the fact that the story uses different kinds of irony. The main type of irony used over the course of this great short story is situational irony. Situational irony occurs when the thing readers expected to happen does not happen. This occurs when Mrs. Mallard retires to her bedroom after hearing the news of her husband's death. Readers fully expect her to grieve over the loss of her husband; however, that most definitely does not happen. Readers learn that Mrs. Mallard is experiencing several different emotions, but grief is not one of them. She is a bit relieved at her husband's death. Mrs. Mallard is even excited for the future that is to come since it will be without her husband.

A savvy reader will hopefully think back to the start of the story when Chopin told her readers that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with heart trouble.

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

At that point in the story, readers are very likely to interpret that information as pertaining to her physical heart health; however, once we learn that Mrs. Mallard is excited at her future freedom, we realize that Chopin was using verbal irony. The heart trouble is definitely a figurative heart trouble dealing with emotional heart health.

As the story continues, readers are blessed with two more good examples of situational irony. Nobody expects Brently to walk through the door. Readers don't expect it, and the characters don't expect it. While we do know that Mrs. Mallard isn't going to be thrilled at his presence, we do assume that she will likely fake her joy. Unfortunately, Chopin shows readers a completely unexpected outcome. Mrs. Mallard dies from a "joy that kills." This final quote is also a good example of dramatic irony because readers know something the characters do not know. Mrs. Mallard definitely didn't die from happiness at seeing her husband alive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team