As the title suggests, there are two main types of irony present in Kate Chopin’s short story “The Story of an Hour.” The first is situational irony, which occurs when the events in a story unfold in a way that is unexpected or contrary to what was expected. The second is verbal irony, which occurs when a character says something that contradicts what they actually mean.
One example of situational irony in “The Story of an Hour” is when Mrs. Mallard learns of her husband’s death. At first, she is devastated and weeps uncontrollably. However, as she continues to think about what his death means for her, she begins to feel a sense of liberation. She realizes that she is now free from the confines of her marriage and can live her life the way she wants to. The ironic twist is that, just as she is beginning to feel happy about her newfound freedom, she suffers a heart attack and dies.
A second example of situational irony occurs near the end of the story when Mrs. Mallard’s sister comes to check on her after hearing news of Mr. Mallard’s death. The sister is worried about Mrs. Mallard’s health, given the shocking news, but Mrs. Mallard assures her that she is fine. She then asks to be left alone so that she can grieve in peace. However, just as her sister leaves, Mrs. Mallard has a heart attack and dies. The ironic twist here is that Mrs. Mallard, who was just beginning to feel alive again, dies in the end.
There are also several examples of verbal irony in “The Story of an Hour.” One such example is when Mrs. Mallard says that she feels like a “dead woman” after hearing about her husband’s death. Of course, she is not actually dead, but rather she is feeling a sense of freedom and liberation. Another example of verbal irony occurs when Mrs. Mallard’s sister tells her that it is “better” for her to grieve alone. The ironic twist here is that, by being left alone, Mrs. Mallard ultimately dies.
This is the feeling that Kate Chopin was attempting to convey in her short story “The Story of an Hour.” A woman with a heart condition, when she learns of her husband’s death, is initially devastated but then overwhelmed with joy. Situational irony and imagery are two major literary devices used to express this sentiment.
The title of the story is very ironic in and of itself. The story is only an hour long, but in that short amount of time, the main character goes through a range of emotions. The biggest irony in the story is when Mrs. Mallard learns of her husband’s death. At first she is devastated, as any wife would be upon hearing news like this.
Chopin uses situational irony to illustrate how quickly Mrs. Mallard’s feeling changed from grief to joy. The situation is also ironic because Mrs. Mallard has a heart condition, so you would think that she would be more careful about her emotions and not get too excited, but that is exactly what happens.
“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 was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not until hearts had ceased to beat fast with the burden of dread that they saw Mr Macomber had not come in” (Chopin 3).
This passage shows Mrs. Mallard’s initial reaction to hearing of her husband’s death. The news comes as such a shock to her that she cannot even process it at first. The reader can see how Chopin uses imagery to describe Mrs. Mallard’s state of mind. The blue sky represents her freedom, and the fact that she is staring at it shows that she is already thinking about what life will be like without her husband.
The next passage shows how quickly Mrs. Mallard’s feeling change from grief to joy. “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin 4).
This passage is full of irony. The first sentence is ironic because Mrs. Mallard is actually going to have someone to live for, her husband. The second sentence is ironic because Mrs. Mallard does not actually want to be free from her husband’s will, she is just happy that he is gone. The last sentence is ironic because Mrs. Mallard does not actually want to impose her will on anyone, she just wants to be free.
Kate Chopin uses situational irony, imagery, and symbolism to illustrate the complex emotions that Mrs. Mallard goes through in such a short period of time. The story shows how quickly a person’s feeling can change, and how complicated grief can be.
When Mrs. Mallard responds to her husband’s death, it is an excellent example of Situational Irony. At first, she is devastated by the loss of her spouse, but as time passes, she grows more relieved. “There would be no one to live for in the future; she would have to survive for herself.” (Chopin 1) Because her spouse has died, Mrs. Mallard now feels free and at ease.
The situation is ironic because she is happy that her husband died. Another example of Situational Irony in the story is when Mrs. Mallard thinks to herself “Free! Body and soul free!” (Chopin 2) Even though Mrs. Mallard is now a widow, she feels free because she no longer has to deal with her oppressive marriage. The final example of Situational Irony occurs at the end of the story when Mrs. Mallard’s sister returns home with Mr. Mallard. The irony here is that Mrs. Mallard thought she was finally free from her marriage, but it turns out her husband was not dead after all.
Verbal Irony is present throughout the story as well. For example, when Mrs. Mallard’s sister tells her about Mr. Mallard’s death, she says “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” (Chopin 1) The irony here is that even though they were trying to break the news to her gently, the news of her husband’s death ended up giving Mrs. Mallard a heart attack and killing her.
Another example of Verbal Irony is when Mrs. Mallard is thinking about how free she feels now that her husband is dead. She says “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself.” (Chopin 1) The irony here is that Mrs. Mallard will not get to enjoy her freedom for very long because she will die shortly after finding out that her husband is still alive.
The final example of Verbal Irony occurs at the end of the story when Mrs. Mallard’s husband comes home and sees his wife’s dead body. He says “She did not hear the story as the other women had heard it. There was something in it that struck her forcibly, inexplicably.” (Chopin 2) The irony here is that even though Mrs. Mallard is the one who died, her husband is the one who is struck by the news.