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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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Do paragraphs 5-9 in "The Story of an Hour" add to the story's effectiveness?

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Before we focus on these two paragraphs to see if they contribute to the effectiveness of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin, let's get an overview of the entire story to put these paragraphs in perspective. The brevity of the tale makes it imperative that all the parts should contribute to its totality.

This story tells of a woman with a heart condition, Louise, who has just received news that her husband has died. She goes up to her room to process the information alone. However, instead of being gripped by grief, she finds herself overcome with great joy. She is finally free from the oppression of her husband. Although her husband was outwardly kind, being trapped in the institution of marriage forced Louise to repress herself. Louise is glad to be free from his influence and to be able to live life however she wants. She thinks,

There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.

It turns out that her husband is not dead, though, and the shock of seeing him gives her a fatal heart attack.

Paragraph 5 provides essential foreshadowing of the feeling of freedom Louise is about to experience. As Louise sits in her chair and looks out the window, she senses what Chopin later refers to as the "very elixir of life." She sees treetops waving in the spring breeze, feels the breath of approaching rain, and hears the call of a peddler, the singing of nearby people, and the twittering of birds. Through these simple sensations she first begins to awaken to the beauty and joy around her. These feelings erupt into a glorious realization that she is free from her husband.

Paragraph 9 carries on the description of the awakening from paragraph 5. Chopin writes of something subtle and elusive brought on by Louise's initial perception of the beauty of springtime. This sensation, which she is at first unable to name, is the realization of her freedom.

We can see, then, that paragraphs 5 and 9 are both very important steps in Louise's revelation that she is happy, not sad, that her husband is dead, because she is now freer than she has ever been.

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These paragraphs add a lot of depth and layers to the story itself.  In these paragraphs, Chopin uses the setting as symbol to represent Louise's coming exaltation of freedom.  She has just heard of her husband's death; in a typical storyline, you might expect her to look out her window and see stormy clouds, lightning, and thunder-all symbols of the traumatic and awful event that has just occurred, and the loneliness she will experience because of it.  Instead, Chopin describes

"the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life... and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves...There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds."

This symbolizes her coming feeling of happiness.  She hasn't felt it yet, but we get a bit of foreshadowing here in the sunshiney day out her window.  There is also a key description of her face, "whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength"; this is the only physical description of her, and hints at the fact that she felt "repressed" in her life.  Before this, we knew nothing about her marriage, but here we get a clue.  Also, out the window she hears "The notes of a distant song which some one was singing," which symbolizes the coming song of freedom that she herself will feel.  It is still distant, like the song, but she can sense the emotion coming; she feels it there.

In all of these paragraphs, Chopin add great literary value to her story by adding symbolism, foreshadowing, and using the setting as a way to pave the way for the coming elation that Louise will feel.  This definitely adds to the story's effectiveness; it makes her reaction more believable, and is a great precursor for the rest of the plot.

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