A Summary of Kate Chopin's Spellbinding 'Story of an Hour'

Summary and Analysis of 'Story of an Hour' by Kate Chopin
Story of an Hour is a simple story of how a sudden realization that something one had imagined is actually untrue, can lead to shock. It is the story of a wife, who first mourns her husband's death, then feels exhilarated, and is shocked on realizing that he is actually alive.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
The Story of an Hour was initially published in Vogue in the late 1800s, under the name The Dream of an Hour. It was reprinted under the present name the following year.
The Story of an Hour is a short story of confusing emotions of Mrs. Mallard. At the first glance, it might seem simple, but it has a deep meaning. It effectively portrays the dynamics of the human mind. The story highlights how forbidden thoughts which are swiftly swept under the rug and forgotten, reappear and cause unexpected reactions.
The Story of an Hour, refers to the time spent by the protagonist (Mrs. Mallard) from the moment she learns about her husband's death, to the instant when she sees him alive.
Summary and Analysis
On a visit to the newspaper headquarters, Richards, a friend of Mr. Mallards learns that there had been a railroad disaster. He learns that Mr. Mallard's name was in the list of those who had lost their lives in the accident. He realizes that he would have to break the news to Mrs. Louise Mallard.

Louise is a woman with a heart problem. Louise's sister Josephine is given the responsibility of breaking the news of Mr. Mallard's death to Louise. She tenderly breaks the news to her. On hearing the news, Louise begins to sob and confines herself to her room, bolting the door behind her.

In her room, she sits distracting herself by looking out of the window. She looks at the trees, smells the approaching rain, and listens to the cries of street peddlers and someone singing at a distance. She hears the sparrows chirp and observes the sky peeping between the fluffy clouds. Occasionally tearing, she gazes away getting lost in her own thoughts.

She finds herself bubbling with a burst of emotions. At first, she resists these feelings and finally succumbs to them. She begins to feel free. She wonders how much he loved her and how she'll cry when she sees her husband's dead body. In some time, thoughts of remorse are far from her mind. On the contrary, she can't help herself from wondering about all the decisions she would be able to take on her own, and the feeling of not being answerable to anyone makes her feel free and happy. She admits that she would miss his love and care, his loving gaze, and tender hands. But quickly she realizes that none of these thoughts matter.

She is again overcome with an overpowering feeling of freedom. She spreads her arms out and is overjoyed. She gets a knock at her room door, Josephine begs her to come out, but Louis doesn't. She resumes dreaming about a happy and free life that lies ahead of her.

After the coaxing by Josephine, Louise opens the door and decides to go downstairs. As she reaches the floor below, the door swings open and Mr. Mallard walks in. He's not dead after all. Richards and Josephine try to ease the blow of this new shocking revelation by blocking Mr. Mallard from Louise's sight, but fail to do so. Louise's euphoria comes to an end.

She is shocked at the sight of her husband and with the thought of her newfound freedom being lost. She dies of a heart attack.
Theme
Story of an Hour walks on the thin line of forbidden feelings of happiness. On knowing of Mr. Mallard's unexpected demise, Louise reacts just as any married woman would. But in the privacy of her own room, she experiences joy and freedom. This shows how her forbidden feelings are expressed in the solitude of her room. So much so that in spite of trying to beat back her feelings, the word "free" creeps out of her lips. She believes that no one would ever understand or accept her feelings. But she begins imagining a future life without her husband. She begins to feel free.

On seeing her husband alive, standing in front of her, her imaginary world comes crashing down. The trauma of abandoning her very short-lived happiness and freedom becomes too much for her frail heart to bear, and she dies.