The Story of an Hour
Language and Communication Theme
In "The Story of an Hour," how you tell someone what happened is almost more important than what actually happened. The biggest concern isn't whether someone lives or dies, it's how you tell a person with a weak heart bad news without killing her. In other words, communication or news can be lethal. Surprising information doesn't just have the power to shock – it can actually kill someone. In this case, the surprise that a husband isn't dead after all is more deadly than a railroad accident. Ideas have to be communicated carefully, with preparation and delicacy. Otherwise, the listener may very well end up dead.
Questions About Language and Communication
- Do you think if Josephine and Richards hadn't been so careful in how they told Mrs. Mallard her husband had died, that Mrs. Mallard would have died of shock at the beginning of the story?
- Why does Josephine "whisper" at Mrs. Mallard's door instead of yelling?
- Why do bearers of bad news often end up being blamed for the news itself?
- We never hear Mr. Mallard speak during the story. What do you think the significance of that is?
Chew on This
If the Mallards had been better communicators throughout the marriage, perhaps the husband's shocking return from the dead wouldn't have killed his wife.
The fact that Mr. Mallard doesn't die, in spite of the fact that Richards got confirmation from a second source, reinforces the imperfection of any long-distance communication.