Which lines represent exposition in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin?

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Katrina Fleetham eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Exposition introduces the characters, setting, and overall background to set up the story. Within the first line of “The Story of an Hour,” author Kate Chopin introduces both the protagonist and the conflict: Mrs. Mallard’s husband has just died, and those close to her must break the news “as gently as possible” since Mrs. Mallard is “afflicted with a heart trouble.” Other characters include her sister Josephine and Mr. Mallard’s friend Richards who first heard the news.

The setting of the story is on a spring day in the Mallards’ home. Action primarily takes place in Mrs. Mallard’s room as described in the fifth paragraph where she looks onto “the open square” outside her window, watching “the tops of trees that were all aquiver with new spring life,” smelling the “delicious breath of rain,” and listening to “a peddler […] crying his wares [….] notes of a distant song […] and countless sparrows […] twittering in the eaves.” The tranquility of the scene outside serves as a backdrop for Mrs. Mallard’s reawakening.

In terms of historical setting, the story was published in 1894 and was meant to take place in its turn-of-the-century, “male-dominated world” that Chopin (and many other female writers) found to be inherently “degrading to women” even if they were in happy marriages (May). The story’s themes were particularly scandalous at the time, so much so that The Century editor Richard Watson Gilder “refused to publish the story […] because he regarded it as immoral” (May).

Given the seemingly sickly protagonist, spring setting, and historical time period, Chopin’s story sets up the struggle of women to reconcile their love for their husbands with their desire for freedom.

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The Story of an Hour

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