Study Guide

The Story of an Hour Setting

By Kate Chopin


One Hour at the Mallards' Home

Granted, the scope and length of this story is super limited. The story takes place within an hour, so there's only so much time the characters have to go anywhere or do anything. Still, it's striking that the women are always inside the Mallards' house, while the men can come and go as they please. This means the primary action of the story takes place within the Mallards' home, which is barely described: there's more than one floor, because there's a staircase inside; the internal doors have locks; and Mrs. Mallard has her own room. In that room, there's "a comfortable, roomy armchair" (4), but we don't know what color it is, what material it's made of, or whether it matches the wallpaper.

Mrs. Mallard seems to be pretty confined to the house, because of her medical condition. We're not sure about her sister, Josephine, but she seems pretty comfortable there. It may be that Mrs. Mallard is afraid of the outside world. Significantly, when Mrs. Mallard wants to be alone and process her husband's death, she goes deep into the house, retreating to her own room and locking the door. It's all Josephine can do to get her sister to come out of the room; forget trying to go down the block. As for Richards, he chooses to go to the Mallards' house, but before that he's out and about in newspaper offices. Notice, too, that during the story nobody leaves the house. Men come in, but no one goes out.

Turns out, of course, that while the world outside initially seems more dangerous – it's where Mr. Mallard supposedly gets killed in a railway accident – it might actually be safer. Mr. Mallard wasn't in that accident, so while the outside world is dangerous for some people, the implication seems that it isn't dangerous for people we care about. But there's no escaping death when it comes for you in a domestic space. Even though Mrs. Mallard is in her familiar home, because of her delicate heart she ends up being in danger wherever she goes, or stays.

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