Literary Devices In The Story of An Hour

‘The Story of an Hour’ is a minimally structured tale that employs various literary devices. They literary techniques convey the emotions and themes of the story. The story is deeply emotional and makes us think about a woman’s life in a society where her freedom is limited. The writer uses special tools to tell this strong story and make us think about the rules and customs of that time. Here are a few of those tools used in the story:

Literary Devices In The Story of An Hour

1- Irony

The irony in the story lies when Louise derives a sense of freedom and joy from realizing the news of the death of her husband. This is ironic because one would expect a woman to feel sad or devastated upon hearing about the death of her spouse. Following sentence employs irony: –

“Her husband’s death was a blessing, not a sadness.”

The use of irony in this line is striking as it is exactly the opposite of what one would expect. Many readers may assume that Louise would be devastated by death of her husband and feel a deep sense of sadness, however, Chopin subverts these expectations by having Louise feel a sense of liberation and freedom. This irony highlights the oppressive nature of Louise’s marriage and the limited freedom and autonomy available to women in the late 19th century.

2- Symbolism

The minute taken to describe Louise’s reaction to her husband’s death is a symbol of the time she takes to realize the true nature of her marriage. The story suggests that Louise has been living in a state of oppression and the news of her husband’s death is a liberating experience for her. Relevant example of symbolism from the book is as under: –

 “There stood Mrs. Mallard in the open doorway, with irons in her hands.”

Chopin uses the open window as a symbol of the freedom that Louise desires. The image of Mrs. Mallard standing in the doorway with irons in her hands creates a vivid contrast between the confinement of her marriage and the possibility of a new more liberated life. The use of the window also serves to emphasize the theme of freedom and the oppression of women as it represents the potential for escape and liberation from the constraints of marriage and society.

3- Imagery

The vivid imagery has been used to describe the emotions and surroundings of Louise. For example, she describes Louise’s heart as ‘beating with joy and the ‘open window through which she sees the ‘blue sky and the golden tree tops’. These images convey the sense of freedom and possibility that Louise feels upon realizing her husband’s death. Here the imagery has been used by the writer: –

“The city was a sea of houses, with here and there a palace.”

In the sentence, the writer uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the densely populated city that Louise sees from her husband’s window. The image of a ‘sea of houses’ serves to emphasize the idea that society is crowded and oppressive and that Louise feels trapped and confined by it. The use of the word ‘palace’ also creates a sense of contrast as it suggests a more grand and spacious environment than the crowded cramped city. This contrast highlights the themes of freedom, oppression and the constrictive nature of society that are central to the story.

4- Tone

The story has an ironic tone as it shows how Louise feels about her husband’s death and what it means for her life as a married woman. It is also sad because it hints that Louise was unhappy in her marriage and feels some relief after her husband’s passing. Following sentence suggest the tone employed by the writer: –

“Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble.”

In the aforesaid sentence, Chopin begins the story while mentioning a heart problem that becomes important later. He using the term ‘heart trouble’ in a factual way, which shows a distant tone suggesting the story is more about women’s oppression than romance. This tone highlights the themes of freedom and women’s limitations in the story.

5- Foreshadowing

Chopin uses foreshadowing to hint at the outcome of the story. For example, when Louise says ‘Her bosom rose and fell with the motion of her breathing‘. The reader can infer that she is experiencing a deep emotion that will have significant consequences. The writer say : –

“there was a feeling of freedom in every step she took” has been foreshadowing the eventual death of Mrs. Mallard.

Here, the use of foreshadowing is to hint at the eventual death of Mrs. Mallard which will be revealed later in the story. The word ‘freedom’ used to describe Mrs. Mallard’s steps hints at something important ahead. This hinting adds depth to the story, building suspense and making the reader curious.

You might be interested: List of 75 Literary Devices

6- Repetition

The repetition of the phrase ‘She was alive’ throughout the story is to emphasize Louise’s newfound sense of freedom and vitality. This repetition creates a sense of rhythm and emphasizes the idea that Louise’s life has been given a new purpose.

“She was free, free, free! She soght or heard the madme’s words.”

Here the literary technique of repetition has been used to emphasize the idea of freedom and liberation. The repetition of the phrase ‘free, free’ creates a sense of rhythm and emphasis underscoring the significance of this theme. The repetition also serves to draw attention to the word ‘madme’, which suggests a sense of oppression and constraint.

7- Point of view

The story’s use of a third-person narrative provides a unique perspective on Louise’s emotions and experiences allowing readers to gain a deeper understanding of her feelings and the themes presented in the story

 “She sat forthwith in stiff, rigid abandonment.”

In aforesaid line, Chopin uses limited point of view to create a sense of intimacy and immediacy. The use of the word ‘stiff’ to describe Mrs. Mallard’s posture creates a sense of rigidity and constraint, which emphasizes the themes of oppression and freedom. The limited point of view also serves to draw attention to Mrs. Mallard’s emotions and thoughts as the reader is only able to experience them through her inner monologue.

8- Flashback

There is no direct flashback in the story, but Chopin uses Louise’s thoughts and feelings to give a glimpse into her past, revealing the sources of her unhappiness and the reasons why she feels so liberated by her husband’s death.

“She was having a walk in the square.”

In the line, Chopin employs a flashback to provide insight into Mrs. Mallard’s life with her husband. The use of the phrase ‘she was having a walk in the square’ serves to create a sense of atmosphere and setting drawing the reader into the story. The flashback also serves to provide context for Mrs. Mallard’s emotions and thoughts.

9- Metaphor

‘In the story of an hour’, the writer uses metaphors to effectively express the character’s emotions and feelings. For instance, ‘She was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window’ is a metaphor used to illustrate the profound and almost intoxicating sense of freedom that Mrs. Mallard experiences. He creates a powerful image of Mrs. Mallard’s emotional awakening. The comparison of the fresh air to an ‘elixir of life’ that Mrs. Mallard consumes, which creates a poignant picture of her transformation and the feeling of liberation she experiences.

10- Simile

Chopin uses simile to aid in character development and description. For instance, “She carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory” uses a simile to depict the transformative effect freedom has on Mrs. Mallard.

11- Personification

Personification involves attributing human characteristics to non-human entities. For example, “And the trees twittering their new spring life” use the verb “twittering”, usually associated with human chattering, for the trees, emphasizing the new lease of life Mrs. Mallard feels.

12- Contrast

The writer employs contrast to highlight characters’ emotions and situations. The visibility of the spring day from her window against the enclosed, dark room where she mourns magnifies the newfound freedom of Mrs. Mallard.

“She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.”

In the excerpt, Chopin uses contrast to create a profound impact on the readers. Instead of reacting with ‘paralyzed inability’, Mrs. Mallard swiftly goes through a wave of emotions eventually leading to a sense of liberation. This contrast between the expected social norm and her actual reaction lays bare the oppressive nature of her married life.

13- Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is subtly used to hint at Mrs. Mallard’s death. An example being: “She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression”. The sentence suggests that Mrs. Mallard has been suffering from some form of repression or oppression which is confirmed later in the story when she acquires her newfound freedom. The adjectives ‘young’ and ‘fair’ describe Mrs. Mallard’s appearance and suggest a sense of innocence and vitality, while the phrase ‘whose lines bespoke repression’ implies that there are underlying tensions or conflicts in her life. The use of the word ‘lines’ also suggests a sense of etching or carving implying that Mrs. Mallard’s face may have been scarred or marked in some way by the experiences she has undergone.

14- Plot Twist

The sudden revelation at the end, that Mr. Mallard was alive all along, is a plot twist which highlights the irony and tragedy of Mrs. Mallard’s situation.

Mr. Mallard was dead. He had been obliged to write and tell her so.”

In the aforesaid excerpt, Chopin uses the plot twist to subvert the expectations of the readers and creates a sense of surprise and intrigue. The surprising news of Mr. Mallard’s passing triggers Mrs. Mallard’s emotional awakening and the realization of her freedom. This unexpected turn gives the story more depth and highlights the themes of personal freedom and women’s oppression in the late 1800s.

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