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The Story of an Hour

The Story of an Hour


by Kate Chopin


Character Analysis

In a story that focuses so much on time – on what can happen in an hour and how much a person can change in a short period of time – it's interesting that Richards's identifying characteristic is how quick (or not) he is. More than anything else, we learn a lot about Richards's various response times. At the beginning of the story, it seems like he can't get to the Mallards' fast enough to break the news about Mr. Mallard's death:

He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message. (2)

He waits as briefly as he can – just "the time" it takes to get "a second telegram" and then he "hasten[s]" to the Mallards' house. So, in a way, you could say that Mrs. Mallard's eventual death is Richards's fault. If he hadn't been so eager beaver, and had waited for more confirmation of Mr. Mallard's death, maybe Mrs. Mallard wouldn't have died. After all, Mr. Mallard gets to his house an hour after Richards has brought his news. If Richards just had waited an hour, Mrs. Mallard wouldn't have ever received her shock – or found her freedom.

When it really counts, though, Richards can't move quickly enough. Even though he sees Mr. Mallard coming in and makes a "quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife" (21), he doesn't move more "quick[ly]" than Mrs. Mallard's field of vision. He's "too late" (22), and she dies. Major fail – Richards only tried to do one thing, and even that didn't go so well. Apart from that, who is Richards?

Well, our main complaint about most of the other characters in the story – that we know very little about them – can be applied to Richards also. He hangs out in the Mallards' house while Mrs. Mallard locks herself in her room to cry, and Josephine pleads at the door. But what's he doing that whole time? Hard to say.

Chopin offers very few clues into other potential motives Richards might have, providing a blank slate upon which we can imagine possible connections between the characters. Is Richards's grief about his friend's death wholly pure? What other reason besides comforting the friend's wife could he have for racing so quickly to their house with his "sad message" (2)? The reader can only imagine the answer to that question.