In “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard's sister, Josephine, tells her quite hesitantly and “in broken sentences” and “veiled hints” that her husband, Brently Mallard, has been killed in a railroad accident.
Josephine and family friend Richards, who first hears of the disaster and of Mr. Mallard's death, are very concerned to break the news to Mrs. Mallard as gently as possible. Mrs. Mallard has heart trouble, and they are afraid that the shock might either send her into an attack or kill her.
Mrs. Mallard does indeed grieve wildly, throwing herself into her sister's arms and weeping. But then she retires to her room to spend some time by herself. Here she reflects on a startling discovery. She is now free to live her life completely for herself, without the burden of her husband's will limiting her.
Of course, as we find out at the end of the story, Brently Mallard is not dead at all. The report is wrong, and he walks through the door very much alive just as his wife is getting used to the thrill of her new freedom. Indeed, it is not Mr. Mallard's death that kills his wife. It is the sudden revelation that he is alive, and Mrs. Mallard drops to the floor as her heart gives out.