So you’re going to teach “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this short story has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots—spare story-telling and moments of irony—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “The Story of an Hour” will give students insight into the role of women in the 19th century, and important themes surrounding morality, time, and freedom. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.
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Facts at a Glance
- Publication Date: 1894
- Recommended Grade Level: 9-12
- Approximate Word Count: 1,000
- Author: Kate Chopin
- Country of Origin: United States
- Genre: Short Story
- Literary Period: Realism, Naturalism
- Conflict: Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self
- Narration: Third-Person Omniscient
- Setting: Late 19th Century, Presumably the United States
- Dominant Literary Devices: Irony
- Mood: Bittersweet
Texts that Go Well with "The Story of an Hour"
The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for its portrayal of insular, claustrophobic life in the upper crust of New York City society. Newland Archer is engaged to May Welland, but when her unconventional cousin Countess Olenska arrives in New York, Archer is forced to question his traditional lifestyle. The Age of Innocence explores both the freedoms and restrictions of idealized, wealthy American life.
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, shocked readers upon its publication in 1899. Edna Pontellier begins the novel as an obedient, socially conventional, upper-middle class housewife. By the end of the novel, she is independent, sexually liberated, and willing to take her destiny into her own hands. The novel surged in popularity during the feminist movement of the 1970s and is now celebrated as a visionary work in the American canon.
“The Garden Party” is Katherine Mansfield’s most famous short story. In this coming-of-age story, Laura helps her mother prepare for a garden party which is to be held at their home. The tenor of Laura’s day changes when she hears that a neighbor has been killed. In visiting the widow, Laura is exposed to a lifestyle much less privileged than her own. Similar to “The Story of an Hour,” “The Garden Party” explores themes such as social class, gender roles, and mortality.
“A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” by Flannery O’Connor, is a 1953 short story that explores mortality and family dynamics. A Georgia family ventures south on a road trip. But their comedic misadventures take a grave turn when they cross paths with an escaped convict. “A Good Man is Hard to Find” explores moral matters and American social structures through a Southern gothic lens.
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, was published in installments starting in 1856. It caught the eyes of both readers and government censors, and Flaubert was put on trial for obscenity. The novel offers a realist portrayal of Emma Bovary, a woman living in rural France who searches for happiness in the form of sexual fulfillment and material possessions.