What is the initial incident of this story?

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The initial, or inciting, incident in a story is the plot point that initiates the protagonist's entrance into the story's main action. It often disturbs his or her life in such a way that the conflict begins to emerge and take shape. We learn the initial, or inciting, incident of this particular story within the two sentences:

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death. It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing.

In other words, Louise Mallard's husband, Brently, is believed to have been killed in a tragic railroad accident, and—due to her apparent weakness of the heart—her friends are very careful to break the news to her in as gentle a manner as possible. It is only after she learns that news that the major conflict of the story begins to become clear, and this is the conflict between Louise Mallard and society. The rules and standards that govern late nineteenth-century society mandate Louise's subjugation to her husband; she has few rights within their marriage, and she did not feel "free" during her husband's life. Only now that she believes him to be dead does she finally feel "free." He was "loving," she knows—not a bad husband at all—but it seems that the institution of marriage is what restricted her, and her husband was really only a representative of society in his expectations of her.

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The inciting event is that which begins the problem in a story. In "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin it is the "sad message" brought by Mr. Mallard's friend Richard that Bently Mallard has been killed in a railroad disaster that forms the inciting event. 

When Mrs. Mallard hears this tragic news, she cries immediately and stands "paralyzed." But, although very distraught, she wants no one to follow her to her room. Ironically, it is there, in the privacy of her bedroom, that Mrs. Mallard releases her emotion. This emotion is not mourning, however; instead, Mrs. Mallard feels as though a weight has been lifted from her. Now, she looks out the window and sees the tops of trees, the blue sky, and she hears the sounds of Spring. The words "free! free! free!" escape her lips. Now, the "sad message" does not appear to affect Mrs. Mallard as one would expect. But, things change as the story progresses.

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