illustration of a woman in a dress standing as if she were in shock

The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

Start Free Trial

What is the point of view of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin? How does the point of view affect the story?

The point of view of "The Story of an Hour" is third-person limited omniscient. The narrator is not a participant in the story and only knows the thoughts and feelings of one character: Louise Mallard. This point of view allows the reader to fully understand her response to the news of her husband's death, as well as the irony of the doctors' erroneous final ruling on her death.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The point of view of "The Story of an Hour" is third-person limited omniscient. The narrator is not a participant in the events that take place and does not use the first-person pronoun "I" or "we." Further, the narrator reports the thoughts and feelings of only one character: Mrs. Louise Mallard. The narrator can report the observable actions and audible speech of others, such as Josephine's "veiled hints that revealed in half concealing" the news about Louise's husband, Brently, or the way Richards "hastened to forestall any less careful" person from reaching Louise first. However, of Louise, we are privy to her interior life. We learn that her body is wracked by a "physical exhaustion" that seems to "reach into her soul." We learn what she observes, sitting at that open upstairs window all alone: the signs of "the new spring life." We learn that even she doesn't completely understand how she feels at first, and that she strives "to beat [the feeling] back with her will" when she begins to realize that she is relieved to be "free, free, free!" of her husband.

Because so much of the story actually takes place within Louise's head—including the revelation that she now looks forward to her freedom rather than having to submit to the restrictions of a relatively loving marriage—if the narrator were not at least somewhat omniscient, we would have little idea regarding the complexity of her thoughts. We might think that she's just a huge jerk for rejoicing in her husband's death, but when we learn that she had only "loved him—sometimes," that she counts "self-assertion" and independence of will so much higher on her list of priorities, we begin to understand that she did not want to be married and that the "repression" revealed by the lines on her face is the result of this. Her thoughts reveal her longing for independence and freedom, and they allow us to understand her outward response. In addition, without knowing her thoughts and feelings, the reader would not understand the final irony: the doctors' ruling that she dies of joy (when it is much more likely due to her disappointment).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team