In The Story of an Hour, what do Louise's sister and Richard's sister have in common?How do their attitudes contribute to the irony of the story?

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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One item that the two characters in Kate Chopin's short story "The Story of an Hour" -- Josephine and Richards -- literally have in common is that both are present at the story's beginning. At this point in the story they are united in their purpose to gently break the news of the husband's reported death to the wife and main character of the story, Louise.

Their commonalities extend further, of course. They are also united in their desire to protect Louise. Josephine pleads that Louise open her bedroom door: "Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door." Similarly, Richards tries to intervene at the story's end, when everyone learns that the husband indeed is not dead: "He [the husband] stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife."

There may be several ways to talk about the irony in this story. What strikes me as very ironic in the story is that neither Josephine nor Richards understand Louise's actual thoughts about her husband's reported death. From start to end, they only see her as sensitive and vulnerable and as needing close supervision. Her own thoughts, the reader learns, are very different from what these two characters expect. 

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