How would you characterize the plot in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin?Is it driven by suspense? Chronological?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that the plot is chronologically sequenced, so, everything occurs in real time, in real order.  After all, it is "The Story of an Hour," so, an hour in Louise Mallard's life.  Rather than suspense driving it--after all, we learn the bad news right at the beginning, so that suspense is over, I would say that the plot is driven by irony.  Irony is when the opposite of what is expected occurs, and in this story, ironic things happen over and over again.  The first instance of irony is her immediate reaction to her husband's death.  Chopin writes,

"She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms."

Louise's reaction is ironic because, as Chopin notes, most women would be in shock, paralyzed from the news, or go into denial.  Louise accepts it at once and weeps.  The second instance of irony is her later reaction to his death.  She is not really sad--instead, she is overwhelmed with joy at her "freedom" from the confines of marriage.  This is definitely an ironic reaction to the news that a spouse died. The third instance on irony is when "Brently Mallard...entered"--he was not dead after all.  That is the opposite of what we expected, as we thought he was dead.  The last bit of irony is the declaration from the doctor that Louise died "of a joy that kills."  Rather, she had been dismayed to see her husband alive, and to feel imprisoned again by marriage.  With all of these ironic events occuring, I would say that irony is one driving force behind the plot.

I hope that those thoughts help; good luck!

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The Story of an Hour

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