What type of order is used to organize the plot in "The Story of an Hour"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is written in chronological order, but it is also organized into three moods denoted by Louise Mallard's position on (1) staircase upward, (2) in her bedroom, and (3) her descent down the staircase.

1. The exposition of the plot of "The Story of an Hour" introduces the character of Mrs. Mallard as being "afflicted with a heart trouble," so great care is taken to inform her of her husband's death. She experiences "a storm of grief," then mounts the stairs to her room alone, independently, for "[S]he would have no one follow her." This new independence differs from her position as the wife of Brently Mallard, subservient to him under the feme covert laws of her time.

2. Once inside her bedroom, Mrs. Mallard faces her open window. Sinking into "a roomy armchair," she smells the "delicious breath of rain [that] was in the air." Also, she hears the notes of "a distant song," and sparrows are twittering happily. The realization that her oppressive husband and her role of repressed wife are both gone "tumultuously" overtakes her, and reflected in her gaze is her new joy under the blue sky of "new spring life":

..."free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes....Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

Louise Mallard revels in her new freedom, and she anticipates her new life.

She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

3. Louise Mallard opens her door, wearing "a feverish triumph" on her face. Clasping her sister's waist, Louise begins her descent down the stairs as Richards waits for them. But, suddenly someone opens the front door with a latchkey. It is Brently Mallard, the husband who has been thought dead. But in truth, he was actually far from the scene of the accident. Suddenly Josephine screams, and Mr. Mallard sees his wife die from the supposed relief of "a joy that kills"--in fact, the joy of freedom for her soul and body that, having arrived, are now gone.

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