October 31, 2014
Irony that Kills
“The Story of an Hour” tells the story of an unhappy woman named Louise Mallard’s ironic marriage. The author takes us back to what seems to be a typical marriage in the nineteenth century. The twists and turns in this short story lead up to an expecting outcome. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is a short story that contains various ironies that connect the reader to the story and give the reader insights and knowledge that even the characters do not know.
Chopin uses literary irony to engage readers. Literary irony is the expression of one’s thoughts by using language that normally signifies the opposite. It is typically used to create a humorous or emphatic effect in the story. For instance, in the short story the character Louise says that her husband Mr. Mallard has kind hands and that he looks lovingly upon her and yet “she only loves him sometimes” (Chopin 697). Usually a woman in those days would be happy to be married to a man like Mr. Mallard and yet the woman that is married to him is not. Louise feels repressed in marriage but liberation in her husband’s death. “She said it over and over under her breath: free, free, free!” (697). When Louise is in her room she soon realizes that she is now free. Free from this life she is so unhappy with, free to begin her new found life. A normal reaction to losing one’s husband would not be the sense of freedom but the sense of abandonment and grief and yet Louise does not feel this.
Situational irony is used to show the reader that what is expected to happen in the story sometimes does not. Situational irony occurs when the actual outcome of a story is opposite of what we would have expected it to be. This type of irony adds drama and suspense to the story because the reader is expecting one thing to happen. When the opposite occurs it keeps the reader wanting to figure out what is going to happen next. This irony is the most used throughout Chopin’s short story and is even used in the title. Within only an hour Louise experiences liberation and a sense of looking forward to her new life but is soon met by death. When reading the title, death is not expected to happen within the story. The short story takes place during springtime which is said to be the season of renewal and rebirth but this story ends in death. In her room Louise "could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life” (697). She is hoping for a new life and a new hope but in the end she dies. Another example would be how Louise wishes to live a short life as a married woman but when she thinks she is now a widow she wants to live a long life. “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long precession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome” (697). Louise is unhappy being a married woman and now that she believes she is a widow she looks forward to the future. In the beginning Louise’s sister Josephine is trying to inform Louise of her husband’s death and when she realizes he is still alive she dies from the shock.
Dramatic irony is used to clue the reader in on how Louise is really feeling. This type of irony is inherit in speeches or a situation of a drama. It is understood by the reader but not grasped by the characters in the play. Dramatic irony emphasizes the limited nature of human understanding and causes the reader to pause or reflect on a certain moment. Chopin uses this type of irony to make Louise’s feelings toward her husband seem different than what the other characters think they are.