The Story of an Hour
by Kate Chopin
We don't know that much about Josephine – we don't even know her last name. She's Mrs. Mallard's sister, that we know for sure. Other than that, there's not a whole lot that we're certain of. For example, we don't even know what she's doing in the Mallards' house. Does she live there all the time, or did she just come over to console her sister? Is she married? Maybe there's something going on between her and Richards. Or not. It's a mystery.
So, if we play Sherlock Holmes, what can we glean from the text? We do know that Josephine's a skilled dissembler, which is a fancy way of saying she can talk circles around the truth. She does a masterful job of telling Mrs. Mallard what happened to Mr. Mallard in "broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing" (2). Josephine is so focused on comforting Mrs. Mallard, though, that we have no clue how she (Josephine) feels about the death of her brother-in-law.
Josephine seems comforting, too, since she holds the crying Mrs. Mallard. Later, when Mrs. Mallard is alone by herself in her room, having her ecstatic freedom fit, Josephine is worried about her:
Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. (17)
Yet, while this line tells us what Josephine is doing in that moment, it doesn't tell us that much about her. For example, how does she usually treat her sister? We don't know if she's usually this humble and nice – she could be, because of Mrs. Mallard's heart condition – or if she's acting differently than normal because of the sad news about Mr. Mallard. In other words, we don't know if Josephine's actions frequently include "kneeling" and "imploring" – or if they're brought out by the extreme nature of the situation.