Write an in depth analysis of "Story of an Hour" based on the social issue of the death of a loved one.This is a term paper topic given to a junior English class.  No other guidelines were...

Write an in depth analysis of "Story of an Hour" based on the social issue of the death of a loved one.

This is a term paper topic given to a junior English class.  No other guidelines were given.  I'm looking for any helpful input.

I am a special needs teacher, and I am trying to help one of my students with her term paper.  The topic is a bit overwhelming to the student (and me).

Expert Answers
kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Depending on the level of challenge your student faces, this could be a really difficult task. As a Special Needs Teacher myself I know how hard it can be to be sure that students have the life experience, social understanding and linguistic appreciation to tackle such a question.

I would firstly break the story into paragraphs and discuss each one separately, relating to the student's experience. For example with the first one I would ask if the student understood terms like 'heart condition' and elicit if they have both literal and metaphorical undertanding. Then one can question about why the news was broken in such a gentle way, and what other issues a heart problem can allude to other than the medical.

Your student will need to show understanding of the implicit meaning of the story and will also require her own interpretation on the ending, particularly what she sees as the cause of Louise's death.. You can help with a discussion on the context of the story and the expectations within a marriage for a woman at the time the story was written.

Another hint would be to approach the teacher who set the task to establish a clear appreciation of what they would require in an essay from your particular student: it is always worth encouraging teachers to differentate work and be precise in their instructions - this helps all students in the end!

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello, This does seem like a difficult assignment for a high school junior, who may or may not have experienced the death of a family member or friend. Two possible social issues come to mind for me.  One is the theme raised by the story, the potential for repression in a marriage, particularly for a female. In fact, many widows do go on to lead interesting and self-actualized lives, suggesting that they were repressed in their marriages. I believe Katherine Graham might be a good example, and there are no doubt others. This would support the idea that a death might lead to social benefits for some. The other theme that comes to mind is that the death of someone close forces on a person to resort to new social configurations. For example, a widow or widower who was routinely invited to dinner as a part of a couple might be "dropped" from all kinds of social circles.

Having said all of that, I do think that these are themes that are rather "mature" in nature, and whether a high school junior could handle either with aplomb is the question.

I hope this helps.


scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the first questions you should address with your student is whether the story's theme/ending is clear to him or her.  Some of my students do not get the story on their first reading. Next, ask your student if he/she can think of any instances when the death of someone would make life better for another person.  Your student might be able to come up with examples of children who are abused or citizens who are oppressed by a dictator. You could also have your student focus on the phrase "loved one" in the prompt. Is Mr. Mallard really a "loved one"? Can a wife truly love her husband while being glad that he is dead?  By discussing what it means to love another person, your student might be able to relate better to the story and prompt. 

It's great of you to help your student in this way; we need more special needs teachers like you, and your question is making me think more carefully about how I phrase prompts and my students' skill levels.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the previous post that this might be a challenge for a student to write if they have not experienced the loss of a loved one.  I would also suggest that the implications raised in the story, especially "the joy" of Mrs. Mallard's loss, might prove to be disturbing to students who are not familiar with the ideas of identity and reclamation of voice that are present in the story.  I think being able to create a modern retelling of the situation in the short story to the student and explaining to them the complexity of emotions in Mrs. Mallard and asking them to react if they were in the same situation might be the best way to go after this one.

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The Story of an Hour

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