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“Story of an Hour”

WomanKate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour” is a short short story written in 1894. But don’t let the old date fool you; this piece is a study in mystery and contradiction and leaves the reader to decide for him/herself what the story’s main character, Mrs. Mallard, really feels and understands about herself. So go ahead and read the story, and decide for yourself. The story is available here.

Study Questions / Assignment Ideas:

1) What was “this thing that was approaching to possess” Mrs. Mallard?

2) Do you think Mrs. Mallard wanted to be “free, free, free” before she was informed that her husband had died?

3) What is the “very elixir of life pouring through that open window”?

4) At the end of the piece, why did Mrs. Mallard die of “heart disease–of joy that kills”? after she discovers that Brently Mallard was indeed still alive? Is it a joy that kills or the loss of that joy that kills?

Quick note about the author:

Kate Chopin (1851-1904) wrote about women’s most inner thoughts and emotions in an age that saw this as taboo. A mother to six children, some of her early stories were published in Century and Harper’s magazines and were generally well received. But her most famous piece, (and her last major work) was a novel entitled “The Awakening.” This is the work that, so to speak, got her into trouble in literary circles. The novel was removed from library shelves because of her treatment of the sin of adultery, and she also was denied membership in the St. Louis Fine Arts Club because of the novel. Because of this, Chopin felt herself shunned by the literary world and wrote very little after that. Today, however, Chopin is considered a true artist of fiction. She has been published in many modern literary anthologies and is almost always included in high-school and college-level literature survey courses around the world. Whatever one thinks, she is truly worthy of close reading.

Source: Charters, Ann.  The Story & it’s Writer-An Introduction to Short Fiction.  Boston:  St. Martin’s Press 1995.

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