How does irony relate to the theme of "The Story of an Hour"?
I'm working on a paper and trying to figure out how everything ties together. The two things I'm writing about is the use of Irony and imagery and symbolism. I understand how imagery and symbolism play into the theme of freedom, but I don't understand the use of irony.
Quite simply, the greatest irony of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" exists in the entire plot, not so much in particular dialogues or scenes, although some characters misinterpret her reactions. That is, it is tragically ironic that shortly after the repressed Mrs. Louise Mallard watches the birds outdoors as they fly and senses her freedom, she walks down the stairs from her bedroom in order to enjoy the tremendous sense of relief that she feels, only to discover that her repressive husband is yet alive. Then, rather than finally escaping her dismal life of a subjugated woman, Mrs. Mallard suffers a shock so great that it deprives her of her life. Thus, she is more subjugated than ever, for she must relinquish, not only her independence, but her very being.
With the theme revolving around Mrs. Mallard's repression, it is ironic that what sets her free works in contrast to be the agent of her death as the thought of relinquishing her new found freedom and sense of self is more than her heart can bear.
In Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," irony is one of the elements of the story that reveals and contributes to the theme.
Everyone in the story assumes the wife will be heart-broken when her husband is reported dead. The opposite is true. Mrs. Mallard feels that she has been freed from the restrictive bonds of marriage and is definitely looking forward to the rest of her life. That is ironic.
Again, society would expect her to be overjoyed when her husband turns out to be alive. Instead, when she sees him she dies of a broken heart. That is ironic.
Her heart is broken not by his death, but by his life.
The doctors assume she dies of "the joy that kills." The audience knows the truth. That is ironic.