In "The Story of an Hour," how do Josephine and Richards break the news to Mrs. Mallard?

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gently. Josephine and Richards try to break the news of Mr. Mallard's death as gently as possible to Mrs. Mallard. The very first sentence of the story tells readers this information. The reason that they have to try and be so careful with the news is that Mrs. Mallard has a heart condition. Josephine and Richards don't want the news to cause Mrs. Mallard to have a heart attack and die also.

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

Their attempt to be gentle comes in the form of delivering the news through broken sentences and "veiled hints" that eventually give the information to Mrs. Mallard that her husband has been killed in a recent railroad disaster of some kind. Mrs. Mallard doesn't die from their troublesome news. Instead, she dies from finding out that her husband isn't actually dead.

It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

But Richards was too late.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the very first paragraph of this memorable short story it is clear that the main concern of Josephine and Richards is how to break the news of the death of Brently Mallard to his wife without shocking her so greatly and endangering her health because of her heart condition. Thus it is that we are told that Richards, a friend of Mr. Mallard, had rushed back so that Mrs. Mallard could be informed by a member of the family rather than find out through any cruder form of communication. We are told in particular how they inform Mrs. Mallard of this tragic news:

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing.

Mrs. Mallard's sister, Josephine, thus tells her in a very elliptical fashion rather than bluntly coming out with the truth, trying to soften this incredible blow to Mrs. Mallard to do her best to not shock her and endanger her health.

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The Story of an Hour

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