Irony in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”
“The story of an hour” by Kate Chopin is described as a story of great irony having many unexpected twists and turns. Situational and dramatic irony is used throughout the story. This is a story of a woman who finds out her husband’s death in a train accident and reacts with sadness in the beginning, but then realizes a freedom and relief from her repressive life. She experiences a complete joy over the death of her husband and dies from the shock of discovering that he is still alive. The first type of irony encountered is a situational irony, where there is a contrast between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. Mrs. Mallard’s discovery of her lost freedom and regaining her identity comes only after her husband’s death. In the story, dramatic irony is used when others characters believe that she has died because she is so overjoyed ...view middle of the document...
What all this signifies is a new beginning for Mrs. Mallard. Everything that she experiences through her senses suggests joy and spring-a new life that awaits her after her husband has died. She is expected to mourn her husband’s death, but she is thinking about her new life. Therefore, the language foreshadows the ironic happiness that she feels at being free.
Chopin deals with the issues of female self-discovery and identity in the story. Dramatic irony is used through Mrs. Mallard’s realization that she is free from her husband. She is introduced as “Mrs. Mallard “and referred to as “she” for most of the narrative. Only when Louise has become “free body, free soul!” , she is addressed directly in the text by he own name. Regardless of the love and care she has for her husband, the problem she sees is the unequal relationship in which one individual exercises his powerful will on the other. This is the reason that she is now regaining her freedom. It seems from the description that Mrs. Mallard has been trapped in this marriage for a long and she wants independence from her unhappy marriage. Hence, Chopin uses irony in the story to show the unequal relationship in late 1800’s.
In the story, the label that Chopin gives to Mrs. Mallard’s problem is “heart trouble’ which involves both physical and emotional factors. Similarly, I think it’s very ironic for the writer to use the phrase “joy that kills” in the last sentence of the story because it is actual joy that Mrs. Mallard feels when she realizes her husband is dead, and pain so great that kills her when she sees her husband walking through the door. However, other characters are unaware of the transformation that has occurred in Mrs. Mallard. The dramatic irony in the end is that Louise doesn’t die because of joy as the doctor claims but actually because of loss of joy. Her husband’s death gives her a glimpse of new life and when that new life is swiftly taken away, the shock and disappointment kills her. Therefore, the main character, Mrs. Mallard experiences grief, depression, sadness, happiness and hope all within time span of an hour as the title of the story suggests.