The Story of an Hour

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  • Q1

    Do you think that there is a connection between the duration of time in which the events of the story occurred and the theme of death?

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    The Story of an Hour is an aptly titled short story by American author Kate Chopin. The story is crisp and gives us all necessary details in the minimum possible number of words.

    The story tells us about the fateful hour of Louise Mallard’s life. All the events of the story take place within one hour and in that one hour we witness not only the plot progression and the chain of events, but also the transformation of Louise Mallard as a person as well. The story begins with a tragic piece of news – the alleged demise of Mr. Mallard. When the news reaches Mrs. Mallard – who is known to have a heart condition, she is devastated. After weeping to her heart’s content, she retires to her room for some isolation. It is here that her transformation takes place. She sinks into a chair facing a window. Outside the window, she sees patches of blue sky through the clouds and the sounds of “countless sparrows twittering”. All these help her to realise how she was subjugated throughout her life. Being a woman in those days meant being subjugated without actually realising it. This time that Louise spends in front of the window makes her realise the importance of being free. From a woman who accepted her subordinate status as “normal” she changes into a person who sees everything clearly. She was just getting prepared to live a full life as an independent woman when she gets to know that her husband was very much alive. This realisation at the end of the hour strikes a blow so severe that she is unable to survive it. Louise Mallard dies.

    The plot is so ingeniously constructed that we witness the loss, the transformation and the death of Louise Mallard. It emphasises the fact that both life and death can indeed catch you off guard. Life can be very surprising and in an instant, it can offer us countless possibilities. This is evident from the instance when Louise faces grand possibilities within a span of minutes. Likewise, death can be equally surprising, if not more. This is evident from Louise’s sudden death at the end of the hour. The author successfully delineates the unpredictability of life, death and time within the story. Therefore, the connection between the time that elapses within the story and the events that happen within the story become evident.

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  • Q2

    The author has stated in the story that Mrs. Mallard is someone who has been restricted in many ways. Do you agree with this statement? Support your arguments with instances from the text.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    Louise Mallard is undoubtedly someone who has been restricted in a lot of ways. Though she loved her husband dearly and so did he love her, she did not have an equal status as him in their marriage. Being a woman from the late 19th century/early 20th century America, she is undoubtedly deprived of a status equal to that of a man. Though the author does not explicitly state this, it is possible to deduce it from the description of Louise and the events of the story.

    The author describes Louise as “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.” In these lines, the author has clearly given us a sketch of Louise Mallard who most certainly represents most women of those days. It is quite interesting to notice that she has a calm face with lines that spoke of repression. This calmness despite repression signifies the fact that for an ordinary American woman of that age, the repression was a normal acceptable thing. Louise perhaps would not have realised that she was, in fact, repressed had it not been for the alleged demise of her husband. This is clear from the fact that when the feeling of freedom overpowers her and she utters the words “free, free, free”, an expression of terror comes and leaves her face. This indicates that even the idea of gender equality and freedom was so strange and unusual for a woman.

    The view outside her window also adds to the intensity of her feelings. Louise looks at a promising future. It makes her nervous and excited. So much so, that it trumps the feeling of bereavement at that moment. “There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.” Patches of blue sky amidst the clouds also enhance the beauty of the promising future. She could see bits and pieces of the promising days ahead just like the patches of blue sky through the clouds.

    It is important to note that Mrs. Mallard feels liberated and not repressed after getting to know of her husband’s death. This itself shows how repressed she felt. Moreover, when she discovers that her husband is alive, more than joy, she feels the loss of her hopes to lead a life as a free individual. She counted upon this possibility so much that coming to terms with the loss of it caused her great grief.

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  • Q3

    Do you think that the ending of the story – the doctor’s statement that Louise Mallard died of joy, is a valid and justifiable one? Give reasons for your answer.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    No, the ending of the story is not a valid and justifiable one. The story ends with the doctor’s verdict of Louise Mallard’s cause of death – she died of joy. But, when we read the story, we come to feel otherwise. After she gets the news of her husband’s death in a railroad disaster, she is devastated. She retires to her room and in the solitude of her room she comes to realise many things, the most important part of which is her realisation about her lack of freedom.

    Being a woman of the 1890s, she too was conditioned in such a way from childhood that the men of the family know better when it comes to taking decisions on what is better for the women. The women did not have much of freedom to exercise free will. Louise realises this and evaluates the meaning of the death of her beloved husband against this backdrop. Of course, she loved him very much and he loved her as well. Despite their love, Louise was not given her due as an individual in her marriage. Perhaps that is why, in the solitary confinement of her room, she finds the true meaning of freedom. As ironic as it may sound, she realises the possibility of an unplanned and independent existence. This feeling makes her uncomfortable and confused in the beginning, but later on, she understands the true meaning of it. Then the words “free…free…free…!” escape her mouth and she understands their true meaning.

    When she sees her husband towards the conclusion of the fateful hour, the prospect of a life as a free individual is taken away from her all of a sudden. It is this shock that she succumbs to. Therefore, the statement that Louise Mallard died of joy is an incorrect one.

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  • Q4

    The events in the story happen so quickly and many things change within a short span of time. The author has described how a person can change so drastically as well as how a person’s world can be thrown upside down within one hour. Discuss.

    Marks:20
    Answer:

    The story of an hour is a very compact story. All events transpire within the stipulated time period of an hour. The author has described how a person can change so drastically within one hour through the protagonist, Louise Mallard. In the beginning of the story, Louise is a beautiful, young woman who is an ordinary housewife. The first event that initiates the process that changes her drastically and completely is the news of the demise of her husband. Devastated as she is, she cries a lot. It is after she calms down a little that the transformation becomes more evident. When she retires into her room to be alone for a while, her thoughts witness a radical change. This change is not at all easy and it makes her quite uneasy.

    The author has described this change as an emerging emotion which begins as something that comes to her, for which she waits fearfully. Louise does not, in the beginning, know or understand this feeling. Later on, when she gets adjusted to it a bit more and starts to understand it better, the words “free, free, free” escape her mouth.

    This utterance is followed by the increasing of her pulse rate and the relaxation of her body. This indicates that she has embraced the change. It was in this instance that she understood how she has been a victim of gender-based subjugation.

    Being a woman, she was conditioned to accept it as ordinary and normal. Now that she found a clear perception, she could see things for how they truly were. She starts to feel hopeful for a future where nobody would control her or curb her freedom. She is now a free individual capable of possessing her own thoughts. She feels happy to imagine such a life where she will not be told what to do and what not to by a man of her family.

    When she comes out of her room and descends the flight of stairs, her allegedly deceased husband enters the house. This is the moment when her world is turned upside down for the second and final time in the story. Unlike the first time, she does not survive this.The happy future that she imagined gets snatched from her and perhaps that was the actual cause of her death.This second turn of events at the end of the story marks the conclusion of the hour, the story and also of the protagonist’s life.

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