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Thematic Interpretations

• After you have downloaded the selections for this week (Required
Resources), read the assigned literature and answer the following
questions in a concise manner. Please be sure to read the
information in Lecture before completing this assignment.
1. What is the Point of View (narrator) in the following selections? In addition to telling me 1st
person or 3rd person (include the 3 categories), can you determine who the actual speaker is?
-“The Planned Child”
-“A Time Past”
-“Story of an Hour”
2. Determine what person, place, or thing is the symbol in each of the following selections, and
explain its significance to the story/poem:
– “Titanic”
-“A Time Past”
– “The Story of an Hour”
3. Explain the irony in the following selections:
– “The Story of an Hour”
– “Titanic”

Thematic Interpretations

After reading each of this week’s selections, compose a 1-2 paragraph
thematic interpretation for one of this week’s reading selections; that is,
what is the lesson/moral/revelation/message that the author/speaker is
trying to communicate to the reader?



SssssSTORY of

The Story of an Hour” is a short story centering on a young married woman of the late nineteenth century as she reacts to a report that her husband has died in a train accident.


…….Vogue magazine first published “The Story of an Hour” in its issue of December 6, 1894, under the title “The Dream of an Hour.” On January 5, 1895, Sue V. Moore, a journalist friend of Chopin, reprinted the story in St. Louis Life, a newspaper of which Moore was editor. Over the years, it was republished again and again in literature anthologies under the title “The Story of an Hour.”


…….The action takes place in a single hour in an American home in the last decade of the nineteenth Century.

Observance of the Unities

…….The story observes the classical unities of time, place, and action. These unities dictate that the events in a short story should take place (1) in a single day and (2) in a single location as part of (3) a single story line with no subplots. French classical writers, interpreting guidelines established by Aristotle for stage dramas, formulated the unities. Over the centuries, many writers began to ignore them, but many playwrights and authors of short stories continued to use them.


Mrs. Louise Mallard: Young, attractive woman who mourns the reported death of her husband but exults in the freedom she will enjoy in the years to come.
Brently Mallard: Mrs. Mallard’s husband.
Josephine: Mrs. Mallard’s sister.
Richards: Friend of Brently Mallard.
Doctors: Physicians who arrive too late to save Mrs. Mallard.

Plot Summary
By Michael J. Cummings…© 2006
……..Brently Mallard has died in a train accident, according to a report received at a newspaper office. Mr. Richards, a friend of Mallard, was in the newspaper office when the report came in. He tells Mallard’s sister-in-law, Josephine, of Mallard’s death, and accompanies Josephine to the Mallard home. Because Mallard’s wife, Louise—a young, attractive woman—suffers from a heart condition, Josephine announces news of the tragedy as gently as possible.
…….Mrs. Mallard breaks down, crying fitfully, then goes upstairs to a room to be alone. There she sits down and gazes out a window, sobbing. It is spring. Birds sing, and the trees burst with new life. It had been raining, but now patches of blue sky appear.
…….Suddenly, an extraordinary thought occurs to Mrs. Mallard, interrupting her grieving: She is free. She is now an independent woman—at liberty to do as she pleases. Because Mrs. Mallard seems to feel guilty at this thought, she tries to fight it back at first. Then she succumbs to it, allowing it to sweep over her. She whispers, “Free, free, free!”
…….To be sure, she will cry at the funeral. However, in the years to come, she will know nothing but joy and happiness, for there will be “no powerful will bending her” to do its bidding. Of course, she had loved her husband. Well, sometimes. On other occasions, she had not loved him at all. But what does it matter now, she thinks, whether or how much she had loved her husband? The important thing is that she is free.
…….Worried about her sister, Josephine pounds on Mrs. Mallard’s door, begging entry. But Louise, saying she is all right, tells her to go away. Mrs. Mallard then resumes her revelry about the wondrous future before her—all the days that will belong to her alone. Only yesterday she wished that life would be short; now she wishes that life will be long.
…….At length, she answers the door and goes downstairs with Josephine. At the bottom of the stairs, Mr. Richards stands waiting while someone is opening the front door. It is Brently Mallard. There had been a mix-up. He was not in the accident, or even near it, when it occurred. Josephine shrieks. Richards quickly moves in front of Brently to prevent Mrs. Mallard from seeing him. But it is too late.
…….Physicians later determine that Mrs. Mallard’s death resulted from “joy that kills.” Her weak heart could not withstand the happy shock of seeing her husband alive and whole.



…….Society in late nineteenth century expected women to keep house, cook, bear and rear children—but little more. Despite efforts of women’s-rights activists such as Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, women still had not received the right to vote in national elections by the century’s end. Moreover, employers generally discriminated against women by hiring them for menial jobs only and paying them less than men for the same work. The Story of an Hour hints that Mrs. Mallard’s husband—perhaps a typical husband of his day—dominated his wife.


…….Louise Mallard appears to have been a weak-willed woman, one who probably repressed her desire to control her destiny. Consequently, during her marriage, she suffered constant stress that may well have caused or contributed to her “heart trouble,” referred to in the first sentence of the story.


Examples of symbols in the story are the following:

Springtime (Paragraph 5): The new, exciting life that Mrs. Mallard thinks is awaiting her.
Patches of Blue Sky (Paragraph 6): Emergence of her new life.

Joy that kills (Paragraph 23): Paradox. The phrase is also ironic, since the doctors mistakenly believe that Mrs. Mallard was happy to see her husband alive.




What’s in a Name?

…….Not until Paragraph 16 does the reader learn the protagonist’s first name, Louise. Why the author delayed revealing her given name is open to speculation. I believe the author did so to suggest that the young woman lacked individuality and identity until her husband’s reported death liberated her. Before that time, she was merely Mrs. Brently Mallard, an appendage grafted onto her husband’s identity. While undergoing her personal renaissance alone in her room, she regains her own identity. It is at this time that her sister, Josephine, calls out, “Louise, open the door!” However, there is irony in Mrs. Mallard’s first name: Louise is the feminine form of the masculine Louis. So even when Mrs. Mallard takes back her identity, it is in part a male identity. (Michael J. Cummings, Cummings Study Guides)


…….The opening sentence of the story foreshadows the ending—or at least hints that Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition will affect the outcome of the story. Morever, this sentence also makes the ending believable. Without an early reference to her heart ailment, the ending would seem implausible and contrived.

Mrs. Mallard’s Heart Condition

…….As the story unfolds, the reader discovers that Mrs. Mallard’s heart ailment may have resulted—in part, at least—from the stress caused by her reaction to her inferior status in a male-dominated culture and to a less-than-ideal marriage. For example, in paragraph 8, Chopin says the young woman’s face “bespoke repression”; in paragraph 14, the author tells us that a “powerful will” was “bending” Mrs. Mallard. Finally, in paragraph 15, Chopin notes: “Often she had not” loved her husband.


…….Kate Chopin (1851-1904) is best known for her short stories (more than 100) and a novel, The Awakening. One of her recurring themes—the problems facing women in a society that repressed them—made her literary works highly popular in the late twentieth century. They remain popular today.


Last Updated on January 25, 2018

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