Death is Life’s most Powerful Motivator

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Embracing your own mortality can change your mindset, enrich your life, and make every second you spend on Earth worth it. There are many ways death can influence someone’s life. In “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe and “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, both protagonists thought of death as a great escape from reality. In Chopin’s story, the protagonist realizes her husband died from a train accident. With finding out about his death led for her to have all these emotions that later followed her own mortality.

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On the other hand, Poe’s main protagonist seeks revenge for an insult he received. His plan for this is through death and killing. Although they believe in the good of mortality, the authors of each of these stories compare and contrast death in different ways. They introduce death as the main idea in their own particular way through the use of characterization and forms of irony.

In Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” the main protagonist, also known as Louise Mallard, shows up with a heart condition. If she gets startled, she dies. She also recently found out about the death of her husband due to a train accident, which ultimately changed her life. Throughout the story, she goes through all sorts of emotions that determine her death at the end. From the beginning of the short story, Chopin describes Mrs. Mallard “”afflicted with a heart trouble”” (95). This is Chopin’s way of characterizing the protagonist and the way she acts. This is the author’s connection towards death and Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition. When people usually hear that someone has a heart problem, there is always a higher chance of losing that person more quickly. Along with that, heart conditions are also the scariest: hearts are the main function to our body. Without it, we cannot survive. That being said, Chopin uses irony in describing Mrs. Mallard’s character in the beginning, for we find out later on in the story that she died because of her condition. “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills” (98). This is ironic since Mrs. Mallard died from love, the love of her life. Chopin wanted to have the health problem considered a heart condition, for the heart is where love is felt. With Mrs. Mallard dying from a heart condition due to the love of her life, it shows how Chopin played with characterization and irony to illustrate her idea of death.

It’s hard to know what kind of marriage Mrs. Mallard had with her husband. She describes him as always being nice to her and seeming full of love, but she had felt some sort of emotion after he passed away. “There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself” (Chopin, 97). Here, there are many interpretations for what Mrs. Mallard feels about being a recent widow. Chopin paints a picture of what their relationship looked like, and how complete the wife felt with him. “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms” (96). This emotion she felt once he died could have been one of the reasons why she passed away. She really loved her husband and was devastated when she lost him. The author adds this part at the end of story to illustrate her view on death, that a person can pass away due to love. Throughout the short story, Chopin also implies, “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead” (97). The author uses this particular characterization in order to strengthen her idea of death, that true love can cause death and how death can be used for an escape. Ultimately, Chopin had mortality as her main theme throughout her story. She wanted to connect love with her definition of death, that love could do things unthinkable and make you so happy to the point of death. Chopin used irony and characterization on Mrs. Mallard to show what mortality meant for her, and that by telling someone about death in the wrong way can be lethal.

Similar to Chopin’s story, “The Cask of Amontillado” written by Edgar Allan Poe talks about a man named Montresor who desires to get revenge against a man named Fortunato, who insulted him. His plan revolved around getting Fortunato so drunk to the point where he wouldn’t understand what was going on. At the end of the story, Montresor ends up succeeding with his quest but leads to questioning his own self. Similar to Chopin’s story, the protagonist also begins to feel all sorts of emotions after a death. Throughout the short story, Poe revolves around mortality as his main theme. In his eyes, he believes that deprivation of revenge can lead to death, and he shows this with his characterization of Fortunato and Montresor along with the use of irony. In the beginning, Montresor gets insulted and wants to plan out a revenge. He introduces the man who had hurt him, “I said to him–‘My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met”” (402). Off the bat, the author uses irony in characterizing Fortunato. This quote is ironic because Fortunato is actually not fortunate that he met Montresor at the Carnival; he is unlucky to had followed him into the catacombs where his death lied. Dramatic irony is also present here, for the readers knew what was to come when they saw each other. Poe made sure her theme was death and revenge, as it becomes apparent and obvious in the beginning of her short story. “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge” (402). The author characterizes Montresor as a person who had been hurt by someone, and greatly seeks revenge. With revenge, the only solution he felt was necessary was to kill Fortunato. By doing this, he felt some sort of escape, an escape from insults and the cruel world. All the things that Poe does relates to Chopin’s short story as having their theme as mortality, for both of their protagonists used death as an escape, an escape from true love and from true hate.

Recently after Montresor’s murder, he started to feel a completely different reaction to what he was expecting. One would think that you would feel good after getting revenge, but Poe’s protagonist thought otherwise. Towards the end of the story, Fortunato begins to feel remorse. “There came forth in reply only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick–on account of the dampness of the catacombs” (408). It is obvious that for a moment, he feels guilt and pity for his actions and the eventual murder of Fortunato. Poe creates her idea of death in this quote where the deprivation of revenge can lead to mortality, and that death can be caused by hate. There are also pieces of irony that relate to Poe’s view of death. “Yes, let us be gone” (408). Although this is a play in irony from Montresor, as Fortunato is about to get murdered, Montresor repeats his words after he killed him. This is the protagonist’s way of escaping from reality, he wants to “be gone” as he now feels guilty for his acts. The author implements this part in her short story in order to strengthen her idea of death, as a way to escape. These are just the many ways Poe uses irony and characterization in illustrating Montresor’s mortality mindset.

At the end, death is one thing that we all face in some point of our life. Everyone takes death in different ways. Poe and Chopin show their way of taking death in these short stories. Both of these authors wrote their short stories to show mortality as a way to escape. They wanted death as their main theme throughout the stories and illustrated it through Louise Mallard and Montresor. Although they both believe in the good of mortality, the authors of each of these stories compare and contrast death as their theme in different ways. There is Chopin’s view of death where people will die for their loved ones, and even kill themselves due to false information. And Poe’s view of death where people will go to the extremes to kill a person. These authors performed this act through characterizing each of their main protagonist and through the use of irony.”

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Death is Life’s Most Powerful Motivator. (2021, Jul 03). Retrieved from