“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin represents a negative view of marriage by presenting the reader with a woman who is clearly overjoyed that her husband has died. This is expressed through the language in “The Story of an Hour” (click for full plot summary) by Kate Chopin used to describe Louise’s emotions as she oscillates between numbness and extreme joy at her newfound freedom. The narrator of “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin relates what she observes in simple prose, but when her emotions are described, the words are vibrant and powerful. This suggests that Louis has a deep inner-life that is not connected to the outside world of her husband or friends and the fact that she cloisters herself in her room to discover her feelings is important. The world outside of her own bedroom is only minimally described, but the world inside of her mind is lively and well described by the narrator. The window outside of her room is alive and vibrant like her mind, while everything about her physically is cloistered.
While the mere use of certain words is indicative of this inner-world of detail and life, there are also several instances of ironic or playful uses of certain phrases or images to convey Louise’s happiness in “The Story of an Hour” and the ultimate message that marriage is constraining. In many ways, the fact that she dies at the end of simple “heart disease” (which the doctors think cam about as a result of her joy of seeing her husband) is symbolic of the “disease” of marriage. Much like an affliction, she cannot feel free unless the agent, her husband, is no longer present. The fact that it affects her heart as opposed to any other portion of her body shows that her misery from this symbolic disease stems from something inside of her, not anything external. For instance, in one of the important quotes from “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, it is clear that her husband loved her when his face is described as “the face that had never looked save with love upon her.” Her own feelings of love in return are also minimally described and it is clear that she does not share his sentiments. The narrator relates in one of the quotes from “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, “And yet she loved him—sometimes. Often she did not.” This kind if simple and direct language is used only to describe the things Louise is not emotional about, thus the bare language would indicate—just as much as the actual words themselves do—that she did not have any strong feelings for her husband. As the thesis statement for this essay on “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin makes clear, the language constructs the reader’s understanding of her character.
When Louise’s emotions are described regarding something she is thrilled about, the language becomes lively and rich with color and vibrant images. This stands in sharp contrast to the sections in which she seems indifferent or emotionally unattached. For instance, in the above citation which begins with the very simple statement in one of the quotes from “Story of an Hour”, “And yet she loved him—sometimes. Often she did not” which demonstrates emotional passivity, but as the short paragraph continues and her true emotions come to the forefront, the language comes alive along with her character. The clipped line above is followed by, “What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!” It is important to notice not only the language comes to life with the use of words like “mystery,” “possession,” and “impulse” but the very phrasing changing. The initial emotions portrayed in these quotes from “The Story of an Hour” (click for full plot summary) by Kate Chopin in which she was passive about are short tidy sentences, but as soon as she begins to feel an emotion, the sentences expand and the whole of one massive thought about “her being” becomes one very long sentence to stand in contrast to the previous one.
This happens again a few paragraphs before this instance when she is speaking in one of the quotes about the strain and crippling “disease” of marriage. When her emotions become overwhelming, so do the sentences and language. “There would be no one to live for in those coming years; she would live for herself” begins the paragraph. There are no lively words, just a matter of fact, unemotional statement without the slightest hint of sadness. In fact, almost as though she suddenly realizes again that she doesn’t need to be sad—that marriage is an unhappy institution for her, she comes to life again through language and sentence structure as seen in a meaningful passage from “Story of an Hour” such as, “There will 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.” Phrases such as “powerful will” and “blind persistence” are much more descriptive and full of energy than any she uses to describe the fact that she had no one to live for. Also, this seems to escape in one breath, as one long rant, only to lead back into the clipped sentence of “And yet she loved him—sometimes” which makes the reader keenly aware of the contrasts in numbness and almost manic emotion.
In terms of language and her emotions, it is interesting that Louise’s feelings are described as a “monstrous joy” since this matches her feelings and well-described strong emotions. There go from calm and passive to wild and uninhibited and the only way the reader can discern what means the most to her is by these passages describing this joy that is monstrous not only because it overwhelms her, but because she knows that she shouldn’t feel the way she does about her husband’s death—that the world of the dull reality would consider her reaction “monstrous” in itself. Again, there is a disconnect between the outer world and her introverted self. While her emotions are described as monstrous, she is described from the outside quite differently since she is “young with a fair, calm face” and has “two white slender hands.” Both of these cues would lead the reader to believe that she is a perfect gentlewoman, composed and serene, while inside her thoughts move with “sudden, wild abandonment.”
Through contrasting language and sentence structures to reveal the emotions of Louise, the reader is able to enter her wild mind just as easily if her every thought was described in an itemized list. The reader is forced to ignore the outside world, mostly because its description offers nothing remarkable, and focus on her inner-life, which depicts a sad portrait of marriage, indeed.
Other essays and articles in the Literature Archives related to this topic include : The Awakening by Kate Chopin: The Process of Edna’s Awakening • Gender and Social Criticism in The Awakening by Kate Chopin • Character Analysis of Edna in “The Awakening” and Discussion About Conflict & Climax • American Literature in Historical Context : 1865 to Roosevelt • Death as a Metaphor in “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin
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