The Story of an Hour

by: Kate Chopin

Symbols

Main ideas Symbols

Heart Trouble

The heart trouble that afflicts Louise is both a physical and symbolic malady that represents her ambivalence toward her marriage and unhappiness with her lack of freedom. The fact that Louise has heart trouble is the first thing we learn about her, and this heart trouble is what seems to make the announcement of Brently’s death so threatening. A person with a weak heart, after all, would not deal well with such news. When Louise reflects on her new independence, her heart races, pumping blood through her veins. When she dies at the end of the story, the diagnosis of “heart disease” seems appropriate because the shock of seeing Brently was surely enough to kill her. But the doctors’ conclusion that she’d died of overwhelming joy is ironic because it had been the loss of joy that had actually killed her. Indeed, Louise seems to have died of a broken heart, caused by the sudden loss of her much-loved independence.

The Open Window

The open window from which Louise gazes for much of the story represents the freedom and opportunities that await her after her husband has died. From the window, Louise sees blue sky, fluffy clouds, and treetops. She hears people and birds singing and smells a coming rainstorm. Everything that she experiences through her senses suggests joy and spring—new life. And when she ponders the sky, she feels the first hints of elation. Once she fully indulges in this excitement, she feels that the open window is providing her with life itself. The open window provides a clear, bright view into the distance and Louise’s own bright future, which is now unobstructed by the demands of another person. It’s therefore no coincidence that when Louise turns from the window and the view, she quickly loses her freedom as well.