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Symbolism In Kate Chopin's "Story Of An Hour"

703 words - 3 pages

“When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of joy that kills”

(Chopin 58). Mrs. Mallard had just experienced a very peculiar afternoon. The situation started

when her sister Josephine and Mr. Mallard’s friend Richards pay a visit to the Mallard house.

Mrs. Mallard is informed that there had been a terrible train accident, and her husband was listed

as being a victim. Mrs. Mallard then retreats into solitude not only to process the information

which was just given to her, but also to revel in the fact that she was now free from her husband.

The reader sees the transformation of Mrs. Mallard, but sadly her new life is cut short after just

an hour of independence. In “The Story of an Hour”, Kate Chopin illustrates how Mrs. Mallards

bedroom, representing solitude and comfort, nature, representing rebirth and newness, and an

open window, representing life and freedom, help Mrs. Mallard cope with the supposed death of

her husband, Brently Mallard.
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Also mentioned in this description is the nature seen from the window in the bedroom. This suggests comfort, for Mrs. Mallard, is also found in nature.

The next symbol used by Chopin is nature. Nature is used to represent Mrs. Mallard's sense of rebirth and newness after the news of her husband's death. "Free, free, free!" Chopin has Mrs. Mallard chant this on page 57 to signal the beginning of her new life; a rebirth of her spirit. Chopin also uses nature to represent the newness felt by Mrs. Mallard. On page 57 Chopin describes, "The delicious breath of rain was in the air." Nature is used to show that the rain has washed away all the old and has ushered in a newness which had been lost to Mrs. Mallard.

Chopin, in addition to Mrs. Mallard's bedroom and nature, also uses an open window to symbolize life and freedom. The fact that the window is open rather than closed is a symbol from Chopin intending to lead the reader to believe there are opportunities for Mrs. Mallard, and, in this case, her opportunity is life. Chopin tells the reader about Mrs. Mallard hearing, "...countless sparrows...twittering in the eaves" (57). Once again Chopin equates nature with the new life Mrs. Mallard now has. The open window and the sparrows also have yet another meaning, freedom. "Free! Body and soul free!" (Chopin 58). Mrs. Mallard said this softly over and over to herself. She said this while looking out through the open window. Chopin uses this open window and statement to show how Mrs. Mallard has accepted her husband's death and is looking forward to the freedom she will feel as a single woman.

Although Mrs. Mallard has all of this freedom, her life is cut short tragically when her husband comes home safe and sound. Mrs. Mallard, with her heart condition, couldn't handle the flood of emotion and passed away of "Joy that kills" (58). The reader is meant to see the irony in Mrs. Mallard's one hour of complete freedom and independence. The open window, representing life and freedom, nature, representing rebirth and newness, and Mrs. Mallard's bedroom, representing comfort and solitude, all helped to explain the coping process of Mrs. Mallard with her husband's death

Works Cited

Chopin, Kate. "The Story of an Hour." Literature for Composition. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Bruto, and William E. Cain. 10th ed. New York: Pearson, 2014. 57-58. Print.

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