The Story of an Hour Critical Overview
by Kate Chopin

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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

A popular writer during her lifetime, Chopin is best known today for her psychological novel The Awakening. Chopin's depiction of female self-assertion was regarded as immoral. When Chopin submitted "The Story of an Hour" to Century magazine, it was rejected. After Chopin's collection of short stories, Bayou Folk garnered critical acclaim, Vogue published the story. According to Barbara C. Ewell in her book, Kate Chopin, the editor of Century, R. W. Gilder, rejected the manuscript because of its feminist message. The magazine had been publishing anti-suffragist articles during this period and upheld a vision of women as selfless wives and mothers.

Since the 1960s, with the rise of the feminist movement, Chopin's fiction, including "The Story of an Hour," has been rediscovered and is now acclaimed for precisely the reasons it was denounced during her lifetime. Per Seyersted, in Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography, extols the story's "theme of self-assertion." Burt Bender, in his essay "Kate Chopin's Lyrical Short Stories," argues that the story is a "shockingly unorthodox" expression of the inequities of marriage. Other critics, while agreeing that the story is bold and unconventional, qualify the view that Louise becomes an independent, assertive woman during the hour in which the story takes place. In Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton , Mary E. Papke considers the darker aspects of Chopin's vision of feminine identity. For Papke, the ending of the story implies that should a woman glimpse herself as an individual and then be denied the chance to live freely, the result will be death, or the dissolution of that new identity. Unless the world changes, Papke argues, Chopin suggests that there is no hope for independent,...

(The entire section is 438 words.)