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

The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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What is surprising or shocking in "The Story of an Hour"?

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What's particularly surprising is the way that Louise reacts to what she thinks is the death of her husband. We don't get the impression that Louise's husband is a bad man, yet when news arrives that he's died in a tragic accident Louise feels liberated all of a sudden. This is the kind of reaction we'd expect from a woman who'd been subjected to domestic abuse, but there's no indication that Louise has been treated like this. In any case, for the first time since she got married, Louise now has the opportunity to take charge of her life and do so many things that she was never able to do before.

A further surprise in the story comes towards the end when Louise collapses with shock and dies after her husband, who wasn't really dead after all, comes walking through the door. One certainly would've expected Louise to be disappointed and to have found it incredibly hard to hide that disappointment. But keeling over and dying from shock is definitely not what one would've expected. That Louise should react this way is an indication that she realizes all too well that her hopes and dreams for the future have been comprehensively destroyed.

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