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The Story of an Hour

Kate Chopin

Structure and Style

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

Important Quotations Explained

In “The Story of an Hour,” Chopin employs specific structural and stylistic techniques to heighten the drama of the hour. The structure Chopin has chosen for “The Story of an Hour” fits the subject matter perfectly. The story is short, made up of a series of short paragraphs, many of which consist of just two or three sentences. Likewise, the story covers only one hour in Louise Mallard’s life—from the moment she learns of her husband’s death to the moment he unexpectedly returns alive. The short, dense structure mirrors the intense hour Louise spends contemplating her new independence. Just as Louise is completely immersed in her wild thoughts of the moment, we are immersed along with her in this brief period of time. This story can be read quickly, but the impact it makes is powerful. Chopin surprises us first with Louise’s elated reaction when she first murmurs “free” to herself. She shocks us again at the conclusion when she dies upon Brently’s return. The “heart disease” mentioned at the end of the story echoes the “heart trouble” discussed at the beginning, intensifying the twist ending and bringing the story to a satisfying close.

Because such a short story leaves no room for background information, flashbacks, or excessive speculation, Chopin succeeds in making every sentence important by employing an almost poetic writing style. She uses repetition to highlight important points, such as when she repeats the word open throughout the story to emphasize the freedom of Louise’s new life. She has Louise repeat the word free over and over again as well, which is one of the few words Louise actually speaks aloud in the story and indicates how much she cherishes her newfound freedom. Besides repeating words, Chopin also repeats phrases and sentence structures to highlight important points. For example, Chopin writes, “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday that she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.” The identical phrasing of the second half of each sentence reveals how drastically Louise’s life has changed—she once shuddered at the thought of a long life, but now she prays for it. Finally, Chopin makes the prose of the story beautiful by using alliteration and internal rhymes. For example, Josephine “revealed in half concealing” when she tells Louise the news, and Brently reappears “composedly carrying” his belongings. All of Chopin’s stylistic and structural techniques combine to make this very short story powerful.

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