The Irony in Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour"
The Irony in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour
In the short story ‘the story of an hour’ Kate Chopin’s uses situational, verbal and dramatic irony to explain Louise Mallard’s true feelings when she heard about her husband’s death. Dramatic irony is when an audience watching a play understands what’s going on in a situation while the characters are unaware of what is happening (Oxford), Situational irony involves a situation in which actions have an effect that is opposite from what was intended, and verbal irony is when words express something contrary to truth or someone says the opposite of what they really feel or mean.
The situational irony used in ‘the story of an hour’ is seen in Mrs Mallard reaction to the news of the death of her husband: “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” (188). Mrs mallard looks extremely upset about her husband’s death, being the reason she went upstairs to her room to get some privacy to mourn the death of Mr Mallard which is normally the reaction when one loses a dear one, everyone is worried about her and hopes she can bear the loss because of her heart problem but unknown to them she is overwhelmed with joy that she is physically and emotionally free from her husband: “When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips.
She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” this signifies, she is glad that she is free from the marriage that has held her captive over the years and thinks of new opportunities and looks forward to experiencing them alone. :”But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome” signifies that she is relieved that she no longer has to live for anyone else but herself, she can do what she wants because she no longer needs to bend her will for her husband and thinks of the future years to come without her husband and is excited to experience them and prayed that they will be long. Chopin words make the story really ironic because Mrs Mallard is supposed to be mourning but instead is celebrating her new beginning, freedom and new opportunities.
Dramatic irony is seen in the short story when Mrs Mallard’s sister, Josephine thinks Louise Mallard is hurting herself, she felt she is grieving and heartbroken by her husband’s death, “Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the key hold, imploring for admission.”Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door–you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven’s sake open the door.”(189) but unknown to her, her sister is very fine, she is embracing her freedom, thinking of all the things she can do, all the opportunities she has, excited about her new beginning and praying for long life so she can enjoy this new found freedom. Another dramatic irony is also seen when Mr mallard walks through the front door, the characters in the story expect that Mrs Mallard will be very happy and overjoyed to see that her husband is alive but the opposite is the case as Mrs mallard had a heart attack not from the excitement of seeing her husband as the characters in the story thought “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills.”(190) , but from the shock and disappointment that her hopes and dreams of freedom and a new beginning which had become a reality because he was believed to be dead had been truncated seeing that he was alive and this was too much for her to bear and she died.
Verbal irony is also used by Chopin in this story is seen in the title, The story of an Hour, Mrs Mallard experiences a lot of different emotions within this short time frame that could normally be experienced throughout one’s life time, she experiences, joy, excitement, sadness, pain, grief all within one hour.
Kate Chopins ” the story of an hour displayed 3 forms of irony throughout the story, which are situational, verbal and dramatic. The story explains the oppression 19th century women had to go through, having no will of their own , sacrificing their joy, happiness for the will of their husband and being powerless in their marriage, life and society.
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