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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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What is the ending of "The Story of an Hour"?

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At the end of "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard sees her husband come into the house. The reports of his death were mistaken, and Mrs. Mallard dies from shock.

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"The Story of an Hour" has an ironic ending on two levels. First, it is an example of situational irony, in which the plot does not turn out the way a reader—or the characters in the story—expect.

Throughout most of this very short story, both Mrs. Mallard...

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and the reader believe that her husband has been killed in a train accident. Her sister and friend deliver the news to her and remain to help her mourn. There is no reason to expect that anything is different from what they have been told.

The twist comes when Mrs. Mallard sees her husband walking through the front door. We find out that he was nowhere near the train accident that supposedly killed him. He has no idea there even was a train accident.

Adding to the irony, Mrs. Mallard is so shocked and overwhelmed when she sees her husband that, with her weak heart, she has a heart attack and dies. The doctors agree that she died of joy—"the joy that kills."

This is an example of dramatic irony, which occurs when readers know what characters in a story do not. In this case, readers were privy to Mrs. Mallard's thoughts as she sat alone in a room, supposedly grieving. We know that once the shock wore off, Mrs. Mallard was overjoyed to be free of her marriage. In the end, then, she dies of unhappiness, not happiness, from seeing her husband alive.

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What happens at the end of "The Story of an Hour"?

In "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard receives news that her husband has died in a tragic "railroad disaster." She immediately accepts the knowledge and weeps immediately "with sudden, wild abandonment." And then a shift occurs.

Mrs. Mallard retreats to her room in solitude to process the significance of the news. She reflects that "she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not." And she sees this change in her situation as a move toward freedom.

Indeed, she repeats this phrase to herself several times: "Free, free, free!"

Finally, she has a chance to live for herself. She will be able to make her own decisions and not be forced to submit to her husband's whims and desires.

Then, a surprising twist occurs. She emerges from her bedroom, and her husband suddenly appears at the door, "a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know that there had been one."

Mrs. Mallard's heart, already looking toward her new future with great excitement and anticipation, cannot take this shift back to her old life. The shock and disappointment that her husband is very much alive stops her heart and kills her.

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What happens at the end of "The Story of an Hour"?

At the end of "The Story of an Hour," Louise suddenly realizes that what she thought was her new-found freedom was just a mirage. Upon hearing of the news of her husband's death, Louise was ecstatic; for the first time in her adult life she felt as free as a bird. All of a sudden, new vistas of opportunity appeared before her eyes, giving her a glimpse into a bright future of personal freedom and self-fulfillment.

But all that is cruelly snatched away from Louise when she discovers that her husband didn't die after all and that she is destined to remain trapped in a stultifying, loveless marriage for the foreseeable future. Her weak heart cannot handle the stress of seeing her husband walk through the door and so she drops down dead on the spot.

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What happens at the end of "The Story of an Hour"?

Throughout "The Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard believes that her husband Brently has been killed that day in a railroad accident. In the hour after receiving this information, Louise cries and thinks about her husband, believing him to be a kindly but, at the same time, oppressive force in her life.

Louise reflects on the hold that people in relationships have on each other, and it occurs to her that it seems a "crime" when men or women "believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature." Louise begins to process the fact that Brently's death means that she will be able to think and make decisions for herself, and she allows herself to feel some joy at her impending freedom.

What happens at the end of the story is that Louise's husband Brently walks in the front door; he had not been the victim of a railroad accident. Though her husband's friend Richards tries to screen Brently from Louise's view, she sees him, and she literally drops dead. The doctors who come attribute her death to "joy that kills," meaning that they believe that she is overjoyed to see Brently return and her heart gives out. However, the feminist reading that Kate Chopin may have intended suggests that Louise dies of a broken heart because her freedom is abruptly snatched away before she can begin living her own life.

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