Irony in “The Story of an Hour”: Unveiling the Hidden Emotions

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Irony in “The Story of an Hour”: Unveiling the Hidden Emotions

The essay analyzes the use of irony in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” It focuses on how Chopin uses situational and dramatic irony to reveal hidden emotions and societal expectations. The piece explores the protagonist’s reaction to her husband’s death, the shock of his return, and the ultimate irony of her death. The analysis aims to highlight the story’s critique of the oppressive nature of marriage during the 19th century. You can also find more related free essay samples at PapersOwl about Fiction.

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Introduction: Kate Chopin’s Use of Irony in “The Story of an Hour”

Kate Chopin In ‘The Story of an Hour’ uses irony throughout her writing by having the audience believe Mrs. Mallard is starting to live her life, then she dies, also when her sister and friends assume Mrs. Mallard is in love with her husband and his death does not bring much sorrow. A very dull and boring story can be made into a great story simply by adding something that is unexpected to happen.

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When the unexpected is used in literature, it is known as irony. The author uses irony to shock the reader by adding a twist to the story. The author of “The Story of an Hour” is Kate Chopin. Her use of irony in the story is incredibly done more than once. Irony is thinking or believing some event will happen, but in return, the unexpected or opposite occurs.

Types of Irony in “The Story of an Hour”

Kate Chopin uses two types of irony in this short story. Situational irony refers to the opposite of what is supposed to happen, and dramatic irony occurs when the audience or reader knows something that the rest of the characters in the story do not know. Kate Chopin does a great job of placing irony into this short story and makes the reader understand that the unexpected happens in life.

There are few characters in this story, but they all play an important part. The characters are Mrs. Mallard, Josephine, Richards, and Brently Mallard. Mrs. Mallard and Brently Mallard are married and live together in the house where the story takes place in. Josephine is Mrs. Mallard’s sister, and she is the one who would break the news to her about Brently Mallard’s death in the railroad accident. Finally, Richards is Brently Mallard’s good friend, and he is the one who found out about Brently Mallard’s death.

The setting of the story takes place in Mallard’s house. It seems to me that the house is old and very comfortable. I think this because after Mrs. Mallard finds out about her husband’s death, she goes to her room, and the narrator says, “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank.”(157) This shows that the furniture is old and worn because most furniture takes a while before it can be worn is so when sat on it will sink in.

Irony’s Impact on Mrs. Mallard’s Character

Throughout the whole short story “The Story of an Hour,” the reader sees’ irony, but the best usage of irony occurs toward the end of the story in the last few paragraphs. As the reader reads the story, they notice that Mrs. Mallard’s husband, Brently Mallard, died in a railroad disaster. The reader also finds out that Mrs. Mallard has heart trouble, and great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death. (157) There are two people who take that great care and tell her the bad news. Those two people are Mrs. Mallard’s sister Josephine and Brently Mallard’s friend Richards. Then the best usage of irony occurs. The reader sees the first reaction to Mrs. Mallard’s husband’s death. Josephine would tell her the news, and Mrs. Mallard takes it pretty hard. The author Kate Chopin lets us know that she seems to take Brently Mallard’s death pretty hard by the words, “She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.” (157). They see that she is weeping, and she wants to be alone because she storms off to her room alone. (157) But then the reader reads, “But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.” (157). This tells the reader that Mrs. Mallard feels something that is coming to her. Then Mrs. Mallard says softly, “Free, free, free!” (157) This event could be both dramatic and situational. It could be dramatic because only the reader or audience knows the true feelings Mrs. Mallard has for her husband, while all of the characters are not in the room with her and do not know her true feelings.

This excerpt of the small story could also be situational because most people would think that when a spouse dies, there would be grief and pain felt rather than the joy of being free from her husband. Only the reader knows that this is not the case for Mrs. Mallard because she is feeling freedom and has her own soul back, which she felt was taken away by her own husband. In this case, Kate Chopin makes the reader think one thing will occur, but the exact opposite will happen later in the story. Kate Chopin also makes the reader know that Mrs. Mallard will weep again at the funeral when she sees her pail dead husband lying there with a dull, lifeless look on his face.

The Unexpected Ending: Irony’s Final Revelation

Another case of irony is seen at the very end of the story. The reader knows that inside, Mrs. Mallard feels free and happy to live alone in the years to come, but the characters do not know this is what Mrs. Mallard is feeling. Then another unexpected happens. The story says, “Someone was opening the front door with a latchkey.”(158). The audience and the character are now thinking about who this could be and who would have the latchkey to the Mallard’s house. Then this is introduced “It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his gripsack and umbrella.” (158).

The reader now sees that Brently Mallard is not dead and was not even involved in the railroad disaster that occurred. Knowing that Mrs. Mallard has heart trouble, Richards tries to screen Mrs. Mallard’s view of Brently to prevent a heart attack of some sort. Richards winds up being too late, and Mrs. Mallard dies. Nothing is said when the audience finds out that Mrs. Mallard is dead, but “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills.” (158) Kate Chopin’s ending to this story is amazing because the reader knows that Mrs. Mallard doesn’t die because of a plain heart attack or out of excitement to see her husband and to know that he is still alive, but she rather died because she saw her life without her husband and felt that she would have a much better life without him in it. While the reader knows Mrs. Mallard’s true death, the characters believe she died of excitement. The wording of the very last sentence in the story is just brilliant. It is so brilliant because it lets the audience know her real death and what the characters in the story thought her death was.

Conclusion: The Power of Irony in “The Story of an Hour”

Without irony in a story, it may be very boring and easy to put the story down. With irony included in the story, the reader does not want to put the book down and stays interested throughout the entire story because irony makes the reader want to know what is going to happen next because they can’t guess it. Kate Chopin uses irony to perfection in this short story. She does this by using irony to let the reader better understand the purpose and meaning of the story. Without the irony in this story, it would be dull and boring, but with irony, the story has suspense and unexpected events. This story was not like other stories that you usually read. It was not predictable at all. I love the vivid imagery throughout the whole story. I like this story because you can not really predict what is going to happen. When you can predict, it usually ruins the story. It kept you wondering about how it was going to end.


  1. Eble, Kenneth. “Irony in ‘The Story of an Hour'”. American Literary Realism, vol. 7, no. 2, 1974, pp. 233-237. JSTOR,

  2. Giorcelli, Cristina. “Mrs. Mallard’s ‘Heart Trouble’ and the Death of a Marriage in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour'”. Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 41, no. 4, 2004, pp. 281-286. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1353/ssf.2004.0032.

  3. Papke, Mary E. “The Story of an Hour: Overview”. Reference Guide to Short Fiction, edited by Noelle Watson, St. James Press, 1994, Literature Resource Center,


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Irony in "The Story of an Hour": Unveiling the Hidden Emotions. (2023, Jul 31). Retrieved from