In "The Story of an Hour," what is "the joy that kills?"

In "The Story of an Hour," the "joy that kills" is, ironically, Louise's overwhelming sense of hope in experiencing an independent future as a widow, which is abruptly shattered when she discovers that her husband is alive. The doctors misinterpret her emotions and believe that Louise's heart attack was caused by her feelings of joy that Brently was alive. However, the reader recognizes that the loss of Louise's independent future caused her heart attack.

Expert Answers

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

The "joy that kills" is Louise Mallard's ruined dream of experiencing a free life the moment she discovers that Brently is alive. When Louise Mallard learns that her domineering husband, Brently Mallard, has tragically died in a railroad accident, she is initially overcome with grief and goes upstairs to compose herself. Once Louise is alone in her room, she begins to think about her future as a widow and realizes that she will be completely free and independent. Louise recognizes that she will have the rest of her life to do as she pleases and will no longer live under her husband's forceful hand. As an independent widow, Louise can experience life without any restrictions and is free from her oppressive marital obligations.

Louise's feelings towards her husband's death change when she sees the silver lining of the tragedy . Chopin writes that Louise is "drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window" and that she "breathed a quick prayer that life might be long" before she...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 877 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on