What does Josephine represent in Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour"?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Story of an Hour," by Kate Chopin, is a very short story which makes its point quickly and effectively. The main character (protagonist) of the story is Mrs. Brently Mallard. She is a woman who is "afflicted with heart trouble"; so when her sister, Josephine, has bad news to deliver, she does so cautiously and gently. Josephine comes to the house and tells her sister than her husband, Brently Mallard, has been killed in a train crash.

Josephine tells her sister this news hesitantly, but Mrs. Mallard does not act as expected. Though she goes to her room, apparently to mourn, Mrs. Mallard is really just coming to the realization that she is now free.

She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!"

She envisions

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.

Alone in her bedroom, Mrs. Mallard has been quietly rejoicing over her new freedom, but her sister does not know that. Josephine assumes her sister is devastated at the loss of her husband and wants desperately to offer some comfort. 

Josephine is everything her sister is not. Josephine assumes that Mrs. Mallard is reacting to the news of her husband's death as she would have--with genuine mourning and grief at the loss of the man she loves. Of course, Josephine never learns of her sister's true reaction, because Brently Mallard unexpectedly appears and his wife "died of heart disease--of the joy that kills."

Read the study guide:
The Story of an Hour

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question