Right in the very first line of “The Story of an Hour” we already find a foreshadowing of Mrs. Mallard’s eventual death. Mrs. Mallard, we are told, is “afflicted with a heart trouble.” This is why her sister Josephine and family friend Richards are so careful and gentle when they break the news of Mr. Mallard’s death in a railroad accident. Mrs. Mallard’s heart might not withstand the shock.
Indeed, Mrs. Mallard weeps wildly in her sister’s arms, but then she goes to her room. She remains very quiet, so much so that her sister begins to worry. Josephine has no idea that Mrs. Mallard is discovering a newfound freedom and a sense of victory and even joy. Therefore, Josephine calls out to her sister, begging her to open the door: “You will make yourself ill,” she says. Here is another foreshadowing of later events in the story. Mrs. Mallard is not sick now, but she will be.
When Mrs. Mallard finally goes downstairs with her sister, she receives the shock that Josephine has feared. Brently Mallard walks through the door very much alive. He has not been killed in a railroad accident at all. At this point, Mrs. Mallard’s heart really does give out, and she falls to the floor dead. The doctor says it is “joy that kills,” but readers know better.