The Story of an Hour-Theme and Narrative Elements
When considering short stories, it is very important to realize that the little things make a big difference in how a piece is perceived. Each piece must be in sync to really help convey the short story in the way that was meant. Different literary elements are integrated in different short stories. For Kate Chopin, her piece The Story of an Hour, symbolism and point of view play very strongly into the story.
To understand the significance of these elements, one must understand what this story is about.
The Story of an Hour is directly about how a woman finds out, and reacts, to news of her husband’s passing. But that is just the plot. The theme of the story goes far beyond that. Theme “is a representation of the idea behind the story (Clugston.)” When looking at Chopin’s story, a distinct theme is seen. This is the fear of being happy beyond marriage. Without delving into symbolism at this point, Mrs.
Mallard, at first seems timid and concerned, but then transitions into feeling of joy. It is as if she is scared of being judged for being happy that her husband is gone. When she finally realizes that it is ok, she celebrates with her sister, only to find out that her husband had not died, it had been a mistake. With this return, this joy that she had experienced quickly retreats, only to leave her dead.
Chopin uses so much symbolism throughout this short piece to communicate the way that the character was feeling. The first was the mention of the open window that she looked out soon after hearing the news. This window is a direct reference to the freedom that Louise suddenly realizes upon hearing the news. She starts to see everything happy outside- from fluffy clouds to people singing. This is all symbolizing the new opportunity that she is beginning to see possible for her. The window was just the start of everything else that would be there.
Another main point of symbolism was Louise’s heart. Off the bat, Chopin mentions the heart trouble that she suffers from. It is also referenced as her joy begins to surface: “Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” Her heart begins to represent exactly how she is feeling. First there is the sorry-heart problems. Then the elation-pulse picking up. Then finally, when she realizes that her husband has not passed after all, Louise dies of heart disease. This shows the roller coaster of emotions that Louise experiences.
The other literary device that Chopin uses to her advantage is point of view. This story is told from a third person omniscient point of view, meaning that there is “An external narrator who knows and relates thoughts and feelings of the characters (Clugston.)” Though there is not a point where Louise is the narrator, readers do get to know everything that is going on in her head. It is almost as if a reader gets to looks at the entire story from the outside, and yet still know everything that is happening. A Reader is able to look at Louise as a friend and feel the empathy for her, which helps them understand the story.
The Story of an Hour is a great example of how short stories must get things across without elaborating too far off topic. Chopin is able to encompass her whole story with adding oodles of back story and other fluff that is not necessary. Her use of symbolism goes a long way towards communicating things so that they never have to be said, and the point of view helps a reader really grasp the story and theme that she is trying to create.
Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into Literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
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