The denouement or resolution of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" occurs at the very end of the story with surprising force.
Mrs. Louise Mallard, who has heart trouble, has been told that she is free from the restrictions of her marriage by the untimely death of her husband. Without having realized it before, she soon understands that her will has not been her own, but has been controlled by her husband, who had generally been kind and whom she had sometimes loved.
However, now Mrs. Mallard's new sense of freedom gives her a renewed interest in her life. Whereas the day before she had worried that life would be long, now she prays that life will be long because she realizes that she has been set "free." "Body and soul, free."
When, at the story's conclusion, Louise Mallard finally leaves her room and goes down the stairs with her sister-in-law, a key in the door announces the arrival of...her allegedly dead husband, Brently. He was not killed in a railway accident as reported. In that moment, rather than being overjoyed at his "resurrection," Louise loses the promise of freedom widowhood would have brought her.
The denouement is the doctors' diagnosis:
When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.
The irony is, of course, that she did not die from the joy of seeing her husband alive, as they believe, but of disappointment at the loss of her dreams for a life all her own. The story reflects the importance of the title—that within an hour Louise's life changes enormously: she gains a life and loses it. The story also perpetuates the sense of society (then) that a woman's happiness depended upon having a husband. Independence was not something women needed: why would they with a husband to make the important decisions?
Overall, the theme throughout the story is Louise's discovery of the value of independence for a woman. The denouement reflects society's inability to understand this concept: the doctor's blame her death not on disappointment, but on ill-health, something only the reader would be able to pick up on.