"The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin is a very economical story, with little action or dialogue. Is this economy a strength or a weakness? Explain.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is, indeed, an economical story. There is little dialogue and little action; almost everything that happens is internal. We learn what Louise Mallard is thinking and feeling and little else--and since little else matters, the form suits the meaning.

This lack of detail and sparseness of plot is a perfect complement to this story. We learn that Brently Mallard died in a train accident; the fact that we do not know the details of the crash takes nothing away from the story. In fact, details and information about him would distract from what was happening in and to his wife. We have no idea what Louise's sister and family friend are doing while she is upstairs dealing with the news they delivered, but it does not matter in the least. In fact, any information about them would only have been a diversion from what is most important. 

The truth is that what happens in this hour is all about Louise, and it is likely that this is the only time she has been the center of attention during her married life. We know that, while her husband has never been cruel to her, he has rather consumed her. She does not get to make her own choices and decisions, and just yesterday the thought of living out the rest of her life like that had been oppressive. Now she looks forward to 

[s]pring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

While she loves her husband "sometimes" and will miss some things about him, Louise imagines, after the funeral, 

a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

This time of contemplation and anticipation of future freedom is very short--less than an hour--but it is something which is hers and hers alone. And, as we know, it is her last hour spent on earth. It is best that it was spent without other people, extraneous details, or distractions. She got to spend it in anticipation of freedom. This is a simple thought, a simple idea, expressed in a no-frills, economical way. This story is a great example of form and function working together perfectly to create and enhance meaning. 

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The Story of an Hour

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