What is a good argument (position) that can be supported with three paragraphs in Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour?"

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour," there are a number of positions you may want to discuss—if you understand the subject and include background as support, you can produce three paragraphs.

This should not be a difficult assignment if you have read the story...but I would also suggest reading it a second time. It is short enough that it won't take long. (One of the things I love about it is that it is so powerfully presented—so impactful—while it is still so short.) I would also make sure to read the eNotes Historical Context and the Biography because they give strong insights into the concerns Chopin had while writing the piece (what the world was like for a woman then)—and it is timeless enough to still speak to its audience today.

In terms of a position, I would offer several. First, women were repressed; they were not used to personal freedom, but were subject to their husband's will:

But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely.

Or, I would suggest it was strictly a man's world. The doctor's cannot conceive that Louise Mallard would want anything but to be married...that the "joy" of seeing Brently killed her—not even shock.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills.

Many women could not recognize inner-strength—that Louise doesn't show weakness frightens Josephine.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhold, imploring for admission. "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."


Women were not raised to question their place in a male-dominated society. When Louise realizes that she is "free," at first she is horrified by the thought, even while she is exhilarated by it:

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.

All of these positions are based upon societal expectations for women at the turn of the last century. Even while women were fighting for the right to vote, and very much involved in improving society (drunkenness, unwed mothers, public sanitation, etc.), society was in control, regarding what was appropriate for women, as perceived a society of men:

It was 1894 when the story was published—

...an era [of] many social and cultural questions...[one] referred to as the "Woman Question," involved which roles were acceptable for women to assume in society.

Chopin's stories considered issues that raised eyebrows and questioned age-old standards...

The stories center around the themes of class relations, relationships between men and women...

The illuminations that came to Louise were those occurring to countless women of the time.

A final argument might be: is it better to be alive and controlled, or free and dead? This, too, is something Chopin presents in the "scandalous" ideas this story presents.

Support your argument with evidence, and you'll have enough for three paragraphs!


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With regard to Kate Chopin's masterfully written story, one other position that can be argued--and one that, perhaps, is not so often discussed as those that pertain to theme--is that which pertains to the significance of its title, "The Story of an Hour."  That is, the existential meaning of Louise Mallard's life is contained within a critical sixty-minute period.  For, it is only during this one hour that Mrs. Mallard's soul awakens to the essence of what she can be as Louise Mallard, "Free! Body and soul free!"  With the contemplation that her existence, for the first time in her life, can become authentic, Louise

saw beyond that bitter moment 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....

 What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

It is this contemplation of creating her own meaningful existence--"the strongest impulse of her life"--her existential essence born of individual freedom and responsibility, that causes Louise Mallard to feel herself alive with a "feverish triumph." For an hour, Louise Mallard understands that she is an individual who can form her own personal essence since before this hour her actions have been controlled by her husband and Victorian mores.  Thus, the reappearance of her husband at the end of the hour is, indeed, a death sentence to Louise's soul and existential essence as again Mrs. Mallard is deprived of her freedom to live an authentic existence. Indeed, Mrs. Mallard's authentic life's story is truly "The Story of an Hour."

So, in writing a five-paragraph essay, the three opinions of the thesis (that Mrs. Mallard only truly lives for an hour) which will initiate the topic sentences of the three body paragraphs can discuss and support how Mrs. Mallard is first "inauthentic" in her life, without any individual essence; how she gains the existential identity afforded her by her newfound freedom and individuality within an hour, and, finally, how she is deprived again of this indvidual essence with the reappearance of her husband.

[ For information on Existentialism, see the links below]



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The Story of an Hour

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