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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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Student Question

What is the function of imagery in paragraphs 4, 5, and 6 of "The Story of an Hour"?

Quick answer:

The imagery in paragraphs 4, 5, and 6 of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin reflects Louise's emotional journey. In paragraph 4, the open window and comfortable chair symbolize new possibilities and comfort in her newfound freedom. Paragraph 5's sensory descriptions of spring and life outside mirror her sense of renewal. In paragraph 6, the blue sky peeking through clouds represents hope and the lifting of her burdens.

Expert Answers

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Imagery is a literary device in which descriptive language is used to help readers create mental images of what is being described. This language usually appeals to the senses and includes many adjectives. Let us take a look at how and why Kate Chopin uses imagery in the fourth, fifth, and sixth paragraphs of “The Story of an Hour.”

In the fourth paragraph, Louise retreats to her room to process the news of her husband’s death. Chopin describes the room as having an “open window” and an oversized, comfortable chair, which Louise sinks into. This language appeals to the senses. One can almost imagine being in Louise's room, seeing the open window, and feeling the comforting embrace of the large chair.

Not only does this imagery help us visualize Louise's room, it also helps us get into her headspace and feel as though we are experiencing what she is experiencing. The language reflects her situation. As we soon learn, Louise is relieved about her husband’s death. She is tired of her life revolving around him, and she is excited to be able to focus on her own pursuits and happiness for a change. The open window represents the open possibilities of Louise’s future now that she is free of her husband. The cozy, roomy chair represents Louise now having the comfort and space in her life to concentrate on her own happiness.

In the fifth paragraph, Chopin uses imagery to describe what Louise sees, hears, and feels while looking out the open window. Louise sees trees filled with life; she hears birds tweeting, someone singing, and a peddler calling out; she smells the scent of rain in the air. This descriptive language appeals to our senses, transports us to Louise’s room, and makes us feel like we are sharing her experiences.

As is the case in the fourth paragraph, the imagery also parallels Louise’s circumstances. The open square suggests her life now being open to her to do with as she likes. Spring is known as a time of new life. The spring life in the trees echoes Louise’s new life now that her husband is dead. Louise has probably looked out the window many times but, until this day, did not truly appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells, because she was preoccupied with her joyless existence. Now she is free from the constraints of being a wife and is able to fully take in the beauty of the world around her.

In the sixth paragraph, Chopin describes the patches of blue sky peeking out from between the clouds. The clouds represent the burdens placed on Louise over the years. The patches of blue sky represent hope and Louise’s emergence from her previously unhappy life.

Chopin’s masterful use of imagery in these paragraphs not only makes us feel as if we are sharing Louise’s experiences, but it also parallels the story itself, as well as Louise’s emotions.

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