Literary Devices In The Story Of An Hour

What are some literary devices in the "Story of An Hour" by Kate Chopin?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Story" of an hour we find mainly

  • symbolism and allegory
  • imagery
  • situational and dramatic irony

The symbolism, or representation of one of thing with another, is evident in Louise's weak heart. She is too weak and sensitive to tolerate heavy situations; we know that this is a symbol for the lack of love in her life. When there is no love, the heart empties and, eventually dies. 

Allegory comes in the form of how motifs seem to permeate the story. Death, re-surfacing, re-starting, going back to life...those are topics ever-present. All the happiness that could exist in Louise's life would only be possible from Brantley's death. And, as he is alive, she now has to die. Either way, death is ever-present either through her condition or through his accident. 

Imagery is used a lot, especially when the reader understands the extent to which Louise REALLY wants to change her life and begins to imagine herself as a free woman:

he was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window. Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed ...that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long....There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory.

Strong imagery, that appeals to the senses, is used to explain to the reader the strength of the character's emotions. Just the fact that we can sense and see what Louise hopes to see constitutes good use of imagery. 

The situational irony shows that the opposite of what is expected happens: Brentley is alive, enters the house fine and well, and his wife dies as a result.

The dramatic irony is how the death is diagnosed as "joy that kills". We know that it was not joy that killed Louise, but the shock that came over her after the disappointing fact that Brently was still alive and that her life was going to continue as usual. 

Read the study guide:
The Story of an Hour

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