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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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How does the imagery in paragraph 5 of "The Story of an Hour" reflect the developing mood?

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The imagery in the fifth paragraph is incredibly hopeful; it all seems to connote freshness and the idea of new life or rebirth. The "tops of trees were all aquiver with the new spring life." Further, "The delicious breath of rain was in the air," and "countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves." It feels as though the air seems clean and dewy—bright, fresh, and hopeful with possibility. Even the birds seem to feel happy as well. This is appropriate because what Louise Mallard feels is relief, much more so than grief, over the news of her husband's death. She will now be able to live for herself, instead of constantly compromising and bending her will to her husband. Her mood is hopeful, and she seems to feel as though she has a new lease on life, just the way everything feels in the spring scene outside.

Tone refers to the way the author feels about her subject, and it is different from mood. I would argue that Chopin's tone here is sympathetic toward Louise Mallard. She does not condemn or even seem to judge Louise for being relieved that her life is now her own.

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The imagery contained in paragraph five of "The Story of an Hour" perfectly mirrors how Louise is feeling at this precise moment. In the open square outside, spring has sprung into life. The sight of fresh spring rain and the joyous twittering of the sparrows in the trees are supplemented by the insistent sound of the peddler hawking his wares. The world outside is truly alive. This is just how Louise feels inside. What she believes to be her husband's death has given her a new lease on life, bringing with it a touch of springtime and the promise of freedom and self-fulfillment that springtime entails. The tone is one of hope and optimism. Just as the ravages of winter yield to the verdant, luscious joys of spring, so Louise believes that the end of her marriage has given way to a life of independence and freedom.

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Mrs. Mallard, unlike the expected reaction that a grieving widow would have, is later elated.  She feels "Free, free!" for the first time since she married.  This reaction, unconventional for her time, and the mindset of most people of Chopin's time period, is foreshadowed in the story, in paragraph 5.  In a typical story of grief and loss, the author would have Mrs. Mallard look outside and see rain, stormy clouds, thunder, chaos and destruction.  But no, Mrs. Mallard, after being told her husband is dead, looks out the window at "the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air...The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves. There were patches of blue sky showing."  This sunny spring day, birds singing, blue sky, are all symbolic of Mrs. Mallard's coming feeling of freedom (blue sky through the clouds), of a new beginning ("acquiver with the new spring life"), of a free life that is just around the corner ("a distant song").

The tone and imagery of the paragraph-and following paragraphs-is happy, calm, uplifting, refreshing, like a breath of fresh air after a long winter, and all of it symbolic of Mrs. Mallard's attitude towards her husband's death.

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