illustration of a woman in a dress standing as if she were in shock

The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

The resolution of the conflict in "The Story of an Hour."

Summary:

The resolution of the conflict in "The Story of an Hour" occurs when Louise Mallard dies from a heart attack upon seeing her husband, whom she believed was dead, walk through the door. This sudden shock resolves the internal conflict she experienced over her newfound freedom and the return to her previous life.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Is the conflict in "The Story of an Hour" resolved?

There are several conflicts that are transpiring in the "The Story of an Hour."  One conflict is the most elemental one that starts the story.  The opening conflict is the sadness which is felt when news arrives that Brently Mallard is dead.  This conflict is resolved in one sense because he is not dead at all, being nowhere near the accidnt.  This, of course, leads to a more complex issue. 

At the start of the story, Mrs. Mallard is inconsolable about her husband's death.  She represents the dutiful notion of a wife in her mourning and absolute sense of being shattered with the death, unable to conceive of a life of her own devoid of his presence.  However, as she is in that room, a new sense of awakening happens.  She ruminates on the new identity that awaits her and the new sense of autonomy and freedom that now lie in front of her.  We do not get the impression that Mrs. Mallard will remarry and eagerly seek out another suitor immediately.  Rather, we understand that she is going to assume the new vision or commencement of her freedom.  In one sense, this helps to resolve the initial grief of her husband's death, for as she leaves the room, she clutches the waist of her sister looking lie a "triumphant goddess." 

As she descends down the staircase with her sister, she has resolved the conflict that was first laid at her doorstep.  This, of course, is abruptly cut short when her husband stands at the doorway, unharmed and nowhere near the accident.  Prior to Mrs. Mallard's epiphany about her newly conceived freedom, the conflict would have been resolved in a succinct manner.  Yet, armed with her new notion of self, the presence of her husband raises a new conflict in that there is a collision between Mrs. Mallard as a wife and Mrs. Mallard as a woman. 

The playing out of this conflict might not be necessarily resolved, but is ended when she dies of "a joy that kills."  Her death ends up silencing this conflict between the life of traditional servitude in marriage that denies freedom and the autonomy of living on her own.  Her death resolves this conflict in one way or another.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Is the conflict in "The Story of an Hour" resolved?

Kate Chopin's short story, "The Story of an Hour," tells of a woman who feels liberated upon hearing the news of her husband's death.  Mrs. Mallard looks from her window out to the wide world beyond and imagines the possibilities of all the things she might do with her new found liberty now that she is "Free!  Body and soul free!" 

Kate Chopin resolves the story by cutting Mrs. Mallard's joy short.  Upon walking downstairs with Louise, the central character in the story is shocked to see her husband enter through the front door.  Mrs. Mallard's heart stops, or has an attack, and in a final moment of irony, the doctors explain the cause of her death as an over-abundance of "joy that kills." 

Although Chopin's ending disappoints the reader who identified with poor, trapped Mrs. Mallard, the irony of the reappearance of the husband brings the story full circle.  The optimist in me would love to see Mrs. Mallard take control of her own life, travel, and do all the things of which she dreamed.  Chopin's ending suggests that there can be no liberation for married women, only death; the perfect ending for "The Story of an Hour" would reveal the opposite condition, an ending which empowers the female and presents opportunities for Mrs. Mallard to be the kind of woman she wished to be.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If you were to rewrite the ending of "The Story of an Hour," how would you resolve the conflict?

This question is up to individual responses. How I might write a new ending could be very different from how another reader would write a new ending. With that said, I don't think that it is realistic to write anything as a new ending. It just wouldn't fit the overall mood, tone, message, etc. of the piece to introduce new elements to the story. One key to the story is that Mrs. Mallard feels sad that her husband died; however, she also knows that she has gained her freedom back. She now can pursue her dreams, wants, and desires. When her husband returns, his presence squashes all that realized hope of hers, and she dies.

I think a new, workable ending could be to have Mrs. Mallard slowly walk toward her husband at the front door. She could kiss him on the cheek and keep on walking right out of the door in pursuit of her life goals. I think that ending works, but I definitely don't like it. She might feel stifled in her marriage, but I've never gotten the impression that she would intentionally walk out on her husband and break her marriage vows. I would rather have an ending in which Mrs. Mallard politely, yet firmly, explains her feelings to her husband. I think the conversation could have Mrs. Mallard making some demands about their marriage and her personal pursuits. It's up to you how you want Mr. Mallard to respond, but I do think that at the end of the conversation Mrs. Mallard should get her way.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If you were to rewrite the ending of "The Story of an Hour," how would you resolve the conflict?

Part of the condition in which Chopin writes her story is based on the condition of women.  The changing dynamic of how women were seen in society is where Louise's narrative becomes compelling.  In the scope of a few pages, Louise begins to see herself as Louise the woman as opposed to Louise the wife.  It is in this vein that I would resolve the conflict between both oppositions by simply featuring an ending where she leaves.  Rather than die of "the joy that kills," I would simply have her walk past Brently as he walked in.  It had become evident that Louise could no longer endure being in a condition of marriage that stifled her being, denied her voice, and suffocated her desires and vision of self.  I think that I would take a modern perspective to the conflict and simply have her walk out of the marriage.  This ending is affirming to the changing dynamic in which Louise reenvisioned her own sense of self and it is one in which there is still power and a compelling notion of how women's roles can be seen in the modern setting.  In this, my ending to the conflict would be to simply have her leave.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on