Kate Chopin is a master of descriptive prose as the language she uses evokes strong emotion in the reader in “The Story of an Hour.” Chopin’s expressive diction leaves the reader feeling bittersweet – joyful for Louise’s future and pity for the restriction she felt in her marriage. This feeling is best described at the moment when Louise has succumbed to the idea of a new, free life: “Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.” (Kate Chopin 307). Chopin’s powerful, emotive prose pulls the reader into the world of Louise’s complex emotions and ultimately enables the reader to identify with her perception that marriage is repressive and confining, which is contradictory to the social norms of the late 19th century.
Before reaching this moment, the reader can discern that Louise is struggling between the thoughts of how she “should” be reacting to the news of her husband’s death against the feeling of elation of being free from her perceived marital constraint. Louise is living in the late 19th century where society believed women belonged in a domestic realm where they “manned” the house (cooking, cleaning, raising the children) binding them to their home and husband. A time when a woman is to be the social moral compass and live by a strict social code of conduct. Even in the description of Louise it is clear she upholds these values: “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” (Chopin 306). It is also when the reader gets the first glimpse of Louise’s repressed life.
Upon hearing the news, Louise “wept at once with wild abandonment” (Chopin 306), which is unlike the reaction of most women who lapse into a paralyzed state of denial and question. Instead, Louise weeps and takes a moment alone, in her room, where she reluctantly begins to realize the significance of her husband’s death. As Louise regains herself staring out the window, Chopin uses poetic prose to describe the scene outside:
She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song with some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves (Chopin 306),
this nod to nature symbolizes Louise’s emotions: “as nature returns to life after winter, so Louise’s emotions return to life after a prolonged winter of patriarchal confinement. Furthermore, just as nature awakens instinctively, so do Louise’s repressed emotions” (Jamil S. Selina 218). Louise’s emotions are erupting, readying her to take on a new life.
Louise wrestles with the impending feelings that are overwhelming her...