Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Short Story Wednesday: THE STORY OF AN HOUR, Kate Chopin 

"The Story of an Hour' by Kate Chopin was written in 1894. 

This is a three-page story that begins with the line, "Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death."

Her husband has been killed in a train accident and Mrs. Mallard immediately cries on hearing it, but asks for solitude and goes into another room. Over the course of the next hour, she suddenly sees the world outside her window as a more beautiful place. She embraces the new freedom that will be hers. "Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering. 

She will not just be the handmaiden of her husband but can embrace a life with activities that interest her.  She is a young woman and it is not too late to make her way in the world. The yoke that marriage puts around her neck is broken.

And then the door opens, and her husband comes in. He was not on that train. 

Mrs. Mallard has a heart attack and dies. 

There are lots of discussions of this story online. Some writers believe Chopin could only get this story published by having her punished at the end. No one at the time would accept a good woman could rejoice (somewhat) in her husband's death. I don't know if I feel her death is necessary or not. How would the story end otherwise? Would she pretend to be happy her husband is okay? Or would she begin plotting his future death now that she understands herself?

A beautifully written story that says so much in three pages.

Kevin Tipple


George Kelley 

James Reasoner


Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, it does sound beautiful, Patti! I hadn't read her short stories before. Perhaps I ought to look them up...

George said...

I've read some Kate Chopin and felt like many of her stories were constrained by the current social conditions.

TracyK said...

I read a short story that had a similar ending years ago ... the woman in the book tried to escape from a bad marriage and ended up imprisoned in it. I was put off short stories for a long time after that because the twist really bothered me.

I do need to read the novels and some of the short stories of Kate Chopin.

Todd Mason said...

I think, and suspect she thought, not so much that "I better punish her for market reasons" so much as it heightens her point.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I read Chopin's THE AWAKENING in college, but not the short stories. That too had a less than happy end, as I recall.

(By the way, I did not want to comment this morning, because we weren't home and every time I comment using the phone, I end up listed as Anonymous.)

I finished the British Library collection mentioned last time (GUILTY CREATURES) and I'm reading another collection edited by Martin Edwards (does the man ever sleep?), this one a CWA collection with a music theme, MUSIC OF THE NIGHT. Nothing special so far.

Also reading and enjoying the Emma Straub collection (OTHER PEOPLE WE MARRIED). "Fly-Over State" finds an unhapy (and probably depressed) Sophie in Wisconsin, where her husband has landed a job teaching college freshmen English. There is a lot of snark and some sarcasm in this amusing (if occasionally downbeat) story. In "A Map of Modern Palm Springs" two sisters, seven years apart, meet in California for a vacation, told from the younger sister's viewpoint. The more I read of Straub's writing, the more I like her.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I like her too!
I don't know, Todd. It is almost too neat.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Or too much the Gift of the Magi type of story with that ending. I might like it to go unsaid. He just returns and we are left to wonder what happens next.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I kind of like this.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry.

Todd Mason said...

That would work!

Meanwhile, a stealth SSW:

Todd Mason said...

Though we might also contend she was anticipating Chekhov's pistol, a bit, since she cited the protagonist's heart problem at the opening...

pattinase (abbott) said...

That makes it trickier.