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The Story of an Hour

by Kate Chopin

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What is the significance of "The delicious breath of rain was in the air" in "The Story of an Hour"?

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When Mrs. Mallard learns that her husband has died in a train accident, the narrator tells us that

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone.

Such a description could lead us to believe that Mrs. Mallard's grief is even more overwhelming than other women's would be. The fact that the narrator refers to her "storm of grief" supports such a supposition. However, once she gets to her room, our expectations are met with a very different reality, creating a disconcerting irony, and this reveals the significance of the quotation to cite. She sees that

the tops of trees [...] 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.

Juxtaposed with Mrs. Mallard's original "storm of grief," she now sees and feels "the delicious breath of rain"—quite a remarkably different description. The narrator describes images of new life and of freedom, not of sadness or grief. Mrs. Mallard begins to consider that she will now be "'free, free, free!'" She is free to begin a new life, make a clean and fresh start, matching the mood of the fresh rain that has washed the world clean and made the air delicious. Life now begins to seem exciting to her, and so the description of what's happening outside her window matches the realization that dawns on her.

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What is key to focus on in this quote is that it occurs after Mrs. Mallard has experienced the first shock of hearing about her husband's supposed death. This is part of a passage where the world outside Mrs. Mallard's room is described to us in all of its promise of spring and rebirth. Now that Mrs. Mallard has encountered the first shock of grief, she is able to think about what life would be like for her as a widow, and she finds that it is full of promise, hope and rebirth.

It is particularly significant in this quote that the "breath of rain" is described as being felt. Rain is of course something that helps growth and causes plants to flourish and bloom. The connotation helps us to focus on the way that Mrs. Mallard is now going to bloom as an individual now that she is free from her married state. This is one quote of many in this excellent short story that shows how nature parallels Mrs. Mallard's own feelings about being widowed.

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In Kate Chopin's short story. "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard has recently found out that her husband had died. Stricken with what readers, and her family, believe to be grief, Mrs. Mallard escapes to her room to "mourn."

While in her room, Mrs. Mallard comes to decide that the death of her husband is not a bad thing. Her life with him has been oppressive and hard. Now, with him gone, she is able to celebrate life. Her celebration first comes when she realizes the beauty of nature and the new life budding outside. Like the spring, Mrs. Mallard wants to forget her past and bloom.

The rain, therefore, symbolizes new beginnings and the washing away of the past. It is as if the rain is both cleansing her and nourishing her (given its physical nature (wet and cleansing) and its figurative nature ("delicious")). Mrs. Mallard could feel the change coming.

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