The ending of "The Story of an Hour" is a classic fake-out. The event that starts the story off – Mr. Mallard's death – is completely undone in the conclusion. It's the opposite of a linear life story because he starts out dying and ends up alive. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mallard's life, which her friends and family tried so hard to protect at the beginning, is lost at the end.
So, the story ends with an event the characters tried to avoid at the beginning. That's ironic. And, on a second look, pretty brutal. Let's look again at that last line: "When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease – of joy that kills" (23). Readers can take away one thing for certain from this: Mrs. Mallard has died.
The doctors referenced say it was because of the "joy" that Mrs. Mallard felt upon realizing her husband hadn't died. If that were all, it would be a cruel twist of fate. Her happiness killed her. That would prove just how much she loved her husband. But what if she didn't die of joy? What kind of shock does she really feel upon seeing her husband alive again?