Selected Readings in British and American Literature
Irony Analysis of the story of an hour
Guerin concludes that the formalistic critic deals with irony and paradox，with symbols and with the tensions that result from multiple interactions within the organic form of the literary piece.( Guerin 118) "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin is a short story that there is a "deeper level of irony in the story" in it.
The short story expresses what happened to Louise Mallard after hearing of her husband Brently’s death in a railroad disaster. Since Mrs. Mallard suffers has heart problems, her sister Josephine told her the horrific news in a gentle way. After crying for a while, she went to her room alone and locked herself there. She should have been mournful and hopeless because of her husband’s ...view middle of the document...
Here are the analysis of two of them.
One is that Josephine was worried that Mrs. Mallard was too sad to lock herself in her room, making herself ill. However, She was actually in her room enjoying the coming of her new free life. That's both situational and dramatic irony. It is ironic for the author to describe the new spring life. “the tops of trees that were aquiver with the new spring life.” Winter had gone and spring came. This indicate that she felt a surge of new life after her husband died. Although she realized that she should be sad and she tried to resist that kind of free joy. “ she was striving to beat it back with her will”, she just lost control and said freedom over and over again. Was this what a woman that loses her husband should do? This kind of dramatic irony strongly reflected that her marriage wasn’t happy and lacked freedom though her husband treated her gently.
Another example is that Mrs. Mallard dies from the shock of seeing her husband. The doctors say she died from "the joy that kills." Readers all know that Mrs. Mallard didn’t die from joy. That's dramatic irony. She opened the door and made her self like “a goddess of Victory”. Seeing her husband still alive and coming in, she immediately died from heart disease. Everyone believed that she was killed by joy of seeing her husband alive. The great irony is that she was killed by losing her freedom regained a few minutes ago. But only readers know the real ironic meaning of it. How difficult it is for women to gain freedom from their stressed marriage!
The story ended with the loss of Mrs. Mallard’s newfound freedom. There are many other examples of irony use and Chopin’s irony aims at “freedom” itself. It is clear through those uses of irony that during 19th century, marriage was the durance of women.
Guerin. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. Foreign Language Teaching and Research press, 2005