Myranda Grecinger is a graduate student in interdisciplinary studies at Liberty University studying American History & Executive Leadership.
By Myranda Grecinger
When reading “The Story of An Hour” by Kate Chopin, I found myself very intrigued by both the author and the story. This short story is full of instances and characters the mirror Kate’s own life and tell volumes about the kind of woman she was. There was also quite a bit of the character development that really pointed to the historical movements of the time. I am impressed that the imagery is so complete and clear that the story really seems to come alive as you read. After careful consideration I decided that the best method to analyze this story and all of its’ components is through a Biographical/Historical approach.
The Story of An Hour is a short story that describes a scene involving a woman whose sister has informed her that her husband was killed in a railroad accident. In this story, the young woman who suffers from a heart condition, immediately goes into hysterical weeping and retires to her bedroom where after a short time she comes to a realization that she is free to live her own life and that this could be a positive turning point for her and emerges a new woman, strong and ready to face whatever awaits her. It is only a short time later that she leaves her room and goes out to experience this new existence when to her surprise her husband shows up at the door unharmed and she falls dead.
In the beginning of the story we meet a character described as the sister of Louise, who is the main character. This woman’s name is Josephine. Josephine shows great character traits such as strength, kindness and nurturing. These character traits were probably familiar and respected by the author, due to the fact that her strongest influences growing up were women. Kate Chopin was raised predominantly by her mother and the nuns at the catholic schools she attended.(katechopin.org) So right away in the beginning of the story we are introduced in a way to part of the author’s life.
Kate Chopin’s father was killed in a railroad accident when she was very young, this is exactly the way that the man in the story is supposedly killed, however the man returning unharmed in the story is a fictional twist, perhaps even a reflection of Kate’s own childhood dreams. Like the woman in the story, her own husband died while she was only in her thirties and it is only after his death that she begins to write and earn her own money,(katechopin.org) these new developments may be reflected in the story in the way of the character finding strength and even passion to live her own life after the death of her husband. “There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself.” (Chopin, 1894) Is a quote from “The Story of An Hour” and may very well reflect Kate’s own ideas at the time.
Kate Chopin is well known for writing about strong but sensitive and intelligent women and that is clearly shown in this story and according to katechopin.org , is also evident an many others as well. There is also a little bit of irony or satire in the story when Louise finally makes a decision to be her own woman and be free to be herself and truly experience life and then drops dead after only having the opportunity for momentary triumph, but the point was that she finally made that change.
Although this story did not specifically name any historical events, I think it would be remise to reject its’ historical attributes and significance regarding the emerging women’s rights movements.(katechopin.org) It marks the shift not only in how women saw themselves but also how they wanted others to see them. “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature." (Chopin, 1894) I think that much of this story is meant to identify these ideas.
Kate Chopin put a lot of work into making this story seem realistic through the imagery that was so detailed throughout the entirety of the story. Often during this story it was easy to picture exactly what was going on and the way that the imagery and tone changed throughout the story helped the reader feel what was going on, such as the little bit of blue peaking through the clouds just as the change begins to overtake Louise. The triumph that Louise felt as she descended the stairs and how that moment was ripped away from her (Chopin, 1894) is so clear that reading it nearly brought tears to my eyes and it shows just how strongly Kate herself must have felt about such things.
The truth is, there are so many components to this short story and so much reader and author involvement that I could go on and on about, but it still would not tell the whole story about what may or may not have inspired each piece of this story. Kate Chopin has been an inspiration to women’s rights groups for some time now and her work on this story is certainly deserving of the attention. There is so much involved in this story from historical perspective to the reflections on Kate’s own experiences and ideas that it was definitely worth examining closer with an analytical, critical review.
The Kate Chopin Historical Society. (n.d.). Biography of Kate Chopin [A quick overview of her life and works]. Retrieved March 26, 2011, from http://www.katechopin.org
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© 2011 Myranda Grecinger
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