In Kate Chopin’s short story “The Story of an Hour,” there is much irony. The first irony detected is in the way that Louise reacts to the news of the death of her husband, Brently Mallard. Before Louise’s reaction is revealed, Chopin alludes to how the widow feels by describing the world according to her perception of it after the “horrible” news.
Louise is said to “not hear the story as many women have heard the same.” Rather, she accepts it and goes to her room to be alone. Now the reader starts to see the world through Louise’s eyes, a world full of new and pure life. In her room, Louise sinks into a comfortable chair and looks out her window.
Immediately the image of comfort seems to strike an odd note. One reading this story should question the use of the word “comfortable” and why Louise is not beating the furniture instead.
Next, the newly widowed women are looking out of the window and see spring and all the new life it brings. The descriptions used now are as far away from death as possible. “The delicious breath of rain…the notes of a distant song…countless sparrows were twittering…patches of blue sky….”
All these are beautiful images of life, the reader is quite confused by this most unusual foreshadowing until Louise’s reaction is explained. The widow whispers “Free, free, free!” Louise realizes that her husband had loved her, but she goes on to explain that as men and women often inhibit each other, even if it is done with the best of intentions, they exert their own wills upon each other.
She realized that although at times she had loved him, she has regained her freedom, a state of being that all of God’s creatures strive for. Although this reaction is completely unexpected, the reader quickly accepts it because of Louise’s adequate explanation. She grows excited and begins to fantasize about living her life for herself.
With this realization, she wishes that “life might belong,” and she feels like a “goddess of Victory” as she walks down the stairs. This is an eerie foreshadowing for an even more unexpected ending. The reader has just accepted Louise’s reaction to her husband’s death when the most unexpected happens; her husband is actually alive and he enters the room shocking everyone, and Louise especially, as she is shocked to death.
The irony continues, though, because the doctors say she died of joy when the reader knows that she actually died because she had a glimpse of freedom and could not go back to living under her husband’s will again. In the title, the “story” refers to Louise’s life. She lived in the true sense of the word, with the will and freedom to live for only one hour.