Analysis Pages

Literary Devices in The Story of an Hour

Figurative Language: Chopin’s use of metaphors and similes serves two purposes: to convey Louise's physical condition and to illustrate the power of her epiphany. For the latter, metaphors and similes complement Chopin's optimistic springtime images to suggest that Louise’s husband’s death is a great opportunity for her self-renewal.

Conveying Emphasis, Themes, and Irony: Chopin employs other devices such as em dashes, syntax, and paragraph structure to emphasize certain ideas. Chopin also adjusts the narrative perspective in order to clarify the character of Louise and to reiterate the story’s main theme. Finally, Chopin uses both dramatic and situational irony at the end of the story in order to highlight how Louise is misunderstood by the world around her.

Literary Devices Examples in The Story of an Hour:

The Story of an Hour

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"the joy that kills..."   (The Story of an Hour)

This ending also contains an example of dramatic irony. The doctors believe that Louise has died of joy, that she was so happily surprised by the arrival of her husband that she had a heart attack. However, readers know that Louise’s surprise is not joyful; having just been set free by his (supposed) death, the shock of her husband’s return, and the return to the status quo, kills her. Since readers know this but the other characters do not, this is an example of dramatic irony. This irony shows that Louise has died misunderstood by the people around her.

"they said she had died of heart disease..."   (The Story of an Hour)

This ending serves as an example of situational irony. At the beginning of the story, Josephine and Richards are worried that the news of her husband’s death will kill Louise, assuming that she would be devastated by it. But she is not devastated, and in fact the opposite of what readers might have expected takes place: the news that her husband hadn’t died ends up killing Louise.

"But Richards was too late...."   (The Story of an Hour)

Chopin sets this single sentence off as its own paragraph to add stronger emphasis. This short, declarative sentence forces readers to slow down and experience the information it conveys: that Richards was not able to hide the view Louise’s death from her husband, Brently.

"goddess of Victory..."   (The Story of an Hour)

In ancient Greek mythology, Nike was the goddess of victory. Because references to Greek mythology are common in English literature, readers might guess that Chopin was thinking of Nike. Either way, to carry yourself like a goddess of Victory is to carry yourself triumphantly, and to do so “unwittingly” means to carry yourself triumphantly without knowing or without trying.

"loved him — sometimes..."   (The Story of an Hour)

The em dash serves many functions in writing. Here, the sentence contains only one em dash, emphasizing the last thought. This creates a break with the previous idea, the shift from “she had loved him,” to (but only) “sometimes.”

"monstrous joy..."   (The Story of an Hour)

The notion of a "monstrous joy" presents an oxymoron; things that are monstrous are not considered joyful. However, Chopin's choice of words serve to emphasize the tension of this moment: Louise doesn’t stop to ask whether she is joyful about the coming realization—a joy that would be “monstrous” because it is about her husband’s death, something that should not produce joy.

"he was striving to beat it back with her will — as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been...."   (The Story of an Hour)

In this metaphor, Louise’s efforts to prevent herself from admitting that she’s excited to be free from her husband are compared to a physical fight, in which her “white slender hands” (a strong visual image suggesting her frailty) aren’t strong enough to fight off the realization that she’s trying to ignore.

"as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams...."   (The Story of an Hour)

In this simile, Louise is compared to a child that has exhausted itself from crying, yet cannot stop even in sleep. This simile reemphasizes Louise's fragility and vulnerability, which were introduced at the beginning of the story.

"storm of grief..."   (The Story of an Hour)

Comparing Louise's grief to a storm emphasizes the enormous anguish she is expressing. In this metaphor, the tears she is crying correlate to the rain of a storm; that is, they are fierce, intense tears that illustrate Louise's "wild abandonment." Also, these stormy tears should be understood, somewhat paradoxically, in relation to the optimistic springtime images that follow in the next paragraph: her tears are the rains that usher in a sunnier season.

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