The Story of an Hour Questions and Answers
by Kate Chopin

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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.

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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...

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Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”: A Feminist Reading

There are many forms of oppression in “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. Not only does

Louise Mallard suffer in her medical and marital conditions, but she also poses a threat to

herself, as her sister Josephine warns. This danger is particularly noticeable, since all of the

action in the story revolves around Louise Mallard’s preservation. Everything is orchestrated to

save her from any sudden and/or extreme distress. In the end, the equilibrium of her situation is

what survives: Brently Mallard’s return signals the return of her oppressive condition and

ensures that Louise Mallard will experience no more than a momentary change in her situation.

It is this unchanging prospect––the preservation of her oppressive condition––that proves Louise

Mallard, or rather her circumstances, fatal to herself.