Kate Chopin has written the short story that has been selected for analysis of literary devices. The narrative of the short story opens with a train accident in which Richard finds the name of his dear friend Brently Mallard among the list of victims. He immediately notifies his friend Josephine, and they both ponder over the best way to break the sad news to Louise Mallard. The moment Louise hears of her husband’s death, she falls into Josephine’s arms and cries grievously. She retires to her room and lets the silence allow her to reflect on her situation. The moment she realizes that she is free at last, she is filled with tremendous joy. On her sister’s constant pleading, Louise exits her room and descends the stairs only to find her husband standing alive and well at the door. The presence of her husband kills her joy over being free, and she dies immediately.
Chopin used two kinds of ironies in the selected short story for emphasis on the way women had to endure their husbands while living a life of confinement. The literary device has been employed in various instances in the short story. The opening of the short story presents an example of situational irony is that both Richard and Josephine are mistaken when they see Louise crying. They believe that Louise is mourning over the death of her husband as she must have been in love with them because unlike other women of that time who were quick to be paralyzed by the news of their husband’s death, Louise did not take any moment in accepting the report of her husband’s death. Following lines show the situational irony that is present in the text,
“Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” (Chopin)
Furthermore, Josephine believes that her sister, Louise, will get sick by locking herself in her bedroom to grieve over her husband’s death. Therefore, Josephine pleads Louise to come out worrying for her sister’s heart condition. However, Louise is quite happy in her room as she had been struck with the sudden realization that she is free at last from her husband and does not have to do anyone’s biddings anymore. Louise keeps repeating the words “Free! Free!” through and through while her sister sits outside her room thinking that Louise is grieving over her husband’s death and will cause herself harm if she was left alone. The following lines contain situational irony,
“Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door–you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven’s sake open the door.” (Chopin)
An example of dramatic irony is also seen in the text when the readers find Louise being happy about her new found freedom because she has been told that her husband is dead even though he isn’t dead as Brently wasn’t near the accident site. What makes it dramatic is that Louise thinks of her future in an hour that she spends in her room and is overjoyed, but her joy leads her to her death when she finds Brently standing at the door. Her momentary pleasure leads her to think of a future where Louise could do anything that she wished for without worrying about her responsibilities. The short story’s ending is also dramatic as the doctor’s label the death reason to be heart failure. However, the reader’s know that it wasn’t Louise’s heart that killed her but the joy that had filled her head with endless possibilities.
It can be concluded that Chopin utilized irony in her story to depict the situation of women during her time. Louise’s character represents those women who had slaved away their youthful days by looking after their homes and taking care of their husbands. The society did not allow them to think about themselves and when they became widows, the community believed that they were in mourning while that wasn’t the case.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. Blackstone Audio, 2013.