The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

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What is the "joy that kills" in "The Story of an Hour" by Chopin?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the end of the story, Louise Mallard discovers that her husband, Brently, is alive and suddenly dies of a heart attack. The examining doctor states that Louise Mallard died of "heart disease—of joy that kills." The doctor presumes that Louise Mallard was overwhelmed with joy when she discovered that Brently was still alive, which could not be further from the truth. Chopin utilizes both dramatic irony and situational irony when Louise Mallard discovers the shocking news and suddenly dies of a heart attack.

Before Brently enters the house, Mrs. Mallard experiences overwhelming joy when she realizes that she will finally have the opportunity to live a free, independent life without the oppressive influence of her husband. She looks forward to her life without Brently and relishes the moment after she discovers that he is dead.

Ironically, Mrs. Mallard dies from terror and heartbreak when she discovers that Brently is alive and her dreams of living an independent life are shattered....

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