Story of an Hour by Lawrence L. Berkove Essay

3380 Words Jan 2nd, 2011 14 Pages
Lawrence L. Berkove (essay date winter 2000)

SOURCE: Berkove, Lawrence L. “Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopin's ‘The Story of an Hour.’” American Literary Realism 32, no. 2 (winter 2000): 152-58.

[In the following essay, Berkove contends that Chopin's narration of “The Story of an Hour” is ironic rather than straightforward.]

Kate Chopin's thousand-word short story, “The Story of an Hour,” has understandably become a favorite selection for collections of short stories as well as for anthologies of American literature. Few other stories say so much in so few words. There has been, moreover, virtual critical agreement on what the story says: its heroine dies, ironically and tragically, just as she has been freed from a constricting
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The unreasoning self-centeredness of Louise partly explains the first two sentences of the quotation's second paragraph, and they tell us more about her than about her husband. Of course, even married people who sincerely love each other have occasional disagreements and may not feel much love for the other at particular times. For most lovers this is not so much a contradiction as a paradox; the moments of hate occur within the larger context of love. But the warmest sentiment that Louise can express after being married to a man whose benevolence the previous paragraph explicitly affirms with its description of his “kind, tender hands” and his face “that had never looked save with love upon her” is the niggardly concession that she had loved him “sometimes.”

It is obvious that there is quite a discrepancy between the way Louise and Brently Mallard feel about each other, but all the mystery of the difference is on Louise's side.

Whatever her original reason had been for marrying Brently, it is clear now that feeling the way she does about him she would be better off not being married. Her love for herself—“she would live only for herself”—does not leave room for anyone else. How, then, would she live?

Her justification for preferring to live for herself, the

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