The Importance


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The Importance of Setting to the Story of an Hour

Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour follows a woman’s reaction to the news of the demise of her beloved husband in a fatal accident. The short story first featured on Vogue in 1894 is one of Chopin’s renowned works of current times. The story in Chopin’s The Story of an Hour is set in the home of Louise and Brently Mallard at their residence during the late nineteenth century. Throughout the context of Chopin’s work, setting occurs in every form of fiction representing place, time, and social context. This text highlights the importance of setting in Kate Kopli’s short story The Story of an Hour.

To begin with, Chopin uses setting to communicate to the readers about what is likely to happen next. Essentially, the setting helps push the plot forward. The author mentions various natural elements of the place. For instance, the author mentions the rainy weather in the story to communicate the sadness and misfortune that lies ahead. The rainy weather is used to highlight how sad Mrs. Mallard is with the death of her husband. As soon as Mrs. Mallard is informed that she is free to go now that her husband has passed away, for some reason, the weather changes drastically. The author talks about patches of blue sky piled on one another facing the window. Mallard realizes that she is now a free woman that can do what she wants. She did not have to worry about society judging her. The patches of blue sky were an indication that she had put sadness in her past. The patches of blue sky were a sign of hope and happiness that lied ahead now that she was a free woman.

Secondly, the setting is used to push forward the theme of personal freedom and the possibility of a new life. The story is set in the 19th century, where wives were deemed property in society. Women were not treated as equals, and divorce was taboo and uncommon. For this reason, Mrs. Mallard never considered filing for divorce from her late husband. Her husband’s death was her only opportunity at freedom. At first, the idea of freedom seems like a bad idea to Mrs. Mallard because all her life, she has been surrounded by restrictions (Hu, 7). She faces restrictions in her strained marriage, her heart, and inside her home. For these reasons, she cannot dare leave her marriage. Despite all the problems she goes through in her marriage, Mrs. Mallard enjoys various freedoms being a married lady and a member of the upper class. She can feel the freedom she has been dreading coming for her. Once the freedom arrives, Mrs. Mallard is overjoyed. Just as she is beginning to enjoy her newly found emotional and mental freedom, the freedom is taken away from her. The setting in the story helps the readers understand the confinement that Mrs. Mallard had gone through and why the death of her husband brought her new freedom.

Thirdly, Chopin uses setting to assert the contrast in the idea of freedom in the characters. Some setting elements help demonstrate Mrs. Mallard’s safe place in the story. For instance, when Mrs. Mallard receives the news of her husband’s death, she runs away and locks herself away in her room. She hides and does not want to get away from there. While locked away in the room, she remembers the idea of freedom and cries herself there as she comforts herself. At one point, she was defenseless, but now she is free to do what she wants. The room represents Mrs. Mallard’s castle in the short story since castles tend to have security and people rarely go in without permission. Additionally, the room represents a prison in Chopin’s story. Mrs. Mallard can only see spring on her window and can barely reach the freedom itself. In the story, Chopin uses the terms ‘facing the window’ and ‘comfortable roomy armchair’ to refer to freedom (Yazgı, 147). When Mrs. Mallard is sited on the armchair, she feels safe and comfortable. She starts thinking about freedom and the future. However, she is not ready to leave the armchair and the comfortable room behind. The armchair represents the safeness of the story. The window in front of the armchair is linked with rails in the story. Mrs. Mallard can only think about freedom but she cannot reach it. She can only look through the window and dream about freedom because she lives the life a prisoner.

In closing, Chopin’s short story narrates the life of a woman following the death of her husband. The story is set in an era where equality did not exist and women were viewed as property. Divorce was never an option in marriage as it was a taboo. The use of setting is important as it communicates to readers what happens next and pushes forward the theme of personal freedom and the possibility of a new life. Additionally, the setting is used to assert the contrast in the idea of freedom among characters.

Works Cited

Hu, Aihua. “The Story of an Hour: Mrs. Mallard’s ethically tragic song.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews (2020): 1-7.

Yazgı, Cihan. “Tragic Elements and Discourse-Time in “The Story of an Hour”.” The Explicator 78.3-4 (2020): 147-152.