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Literary Analysis of Symbolism and Irony in “the Story of an Hour”

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Makenna Giese

English 155: Intro. to Literature

Prof. FitzPatrick

23 February 2016

Literary Analysis of Symbolism and Irony in “The Story of an Hour”

        The short story written by Kate Chopin began with the idea of time after Mrs. Mallard found out that her husband was dead, after a railroad disaster, until toward the end of the story, she found out that he was actually still alive. The story is set in the late nineteenth century in the Mallard residence, the home of Brently and Louise Mallard. Mrs. Mallard suffered from heart problems, which was the first symbol that is introduced. Her sister tried to enlighten Mrs. Mallard about the death very gently not to affect her heart problem. After finding out about the death, Mrs. Mallard who was also a symbol immediately locked herself in her room to mourn the loss of her husband. She noticed a big chair sitting by the window. While in the room, she looked through the window and realized it was spring time. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin uses symbolism and different amounts of irony to portray the significance of different events that occur throughout the short story.

        The first symbol that was introduced was Mrs. Mallards heart condition. The heart was used to show multiple things in the different stages of the story. During the story, the heart varied as a symbol, but all of the things were intertwined to a similar topic. The first was that the heart was the symbol of the center of the body. Her heart problems symbolized some of the emotional heart problems she had that were related to her marriage. Her marriage did not go very well. She felt submissive in this relationship, letting her husband control her. “And yet she had loved him – sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!” (Chopin). She realized that she didn't need his love to be happy, and that her life didn't revolve around her husband.

        The chair in her room, which she proceeded to immediately after she found out her husband was dead, symbolized the oppressive life she was living. This was shown by how she sank deep into the chair in the room. “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach her soul” (Chopin). For a moment, she was upset and then she felt the relief that she was finally free from being submissive. Mrs. Mallard realized that her life didn't need to be controlled by her husband and she was gaining insight on how to deal with the situation that was being thrown at her. She could’ve felt as though the big chair was her husband and while looking out the window realized that she no longer needed the protection from him because along with it came a negative impact on her life.

        The spring like weather symbolized her moment of exhilaration and happiness realizing that she was finally free from her husband. She will get to live her own life and develop the sense of hope for a good life, instead of wanting to end her life. Chopin used bright and warm colors to show that Mrs. Mallard should be happy while looking out the window. “But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air” (Chopin). Mrs. Mallard was having a significant emotional change at that moment and realized that her husband dying was for the better. Love is a material, sometimes people have it and sometimes people do not. Mrs. Mallard noticed that love is not always what her life needed and realized that she loved this inner joy she was beginning to feel.

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