Study Guide

The Story of an Hour Language and Communication

By Kate Chopin

Language and Communication

The Story of an Hour
Mrs. Louise Mallard

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" (11)

The idea of being "free" has to escape from Mrs. Mallard. It's not as though she readily admits it or eagerly shouts it out. She barely opens her mouth and barely raises her voice. The word "free," itself described as tiny, has to sneak out of her.

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering. (16)

Significantly, the emotions Mrs. Mallard feels in this moment are powerful and strong. This can be seen in the repeated use of exclamation points, the repeated emphasis on the idea of "freedom," and the combination of her entire body and soul being caught up in this feeling. However, it seems like the feelings are almost too strong to be expressed. Mrs. Mallard can only "whisper" them.

Mr. Brently Mallard

He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife. (21)

Significantly, the reactions and voices that reveal responses to Mr. Mallard's entrance come from everyone except "his wife." Josephine's the one who makes a "piercing cry," not Mrs. Mallard; it's Richards who tries to intercede and stop Mrs. Mallard from seeing him. We don't know how or what Mrs. Mallard would communicate in this moment. It's hidden from us just as Richards tries to hide Mr. Mallard from his wife.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. (2)

The way Josephine tells Mrs. Mallard about the tragedy is so "veiled" and "concealing" that we don't even hear the words she uses to describe it. The narrator shields the reader from this news just as Josephine shields it from Mrs. Mallard. In each case, the teller tries to protect the listener. The idea of "half concealing" can stretch to cover the whole story, too, as Chopin uses inference and implication – not always direct reporting – to tell readers about events.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. (3)

Mrs. Mallard's approach to the news shows how different she is from "many [other] women." Most wives, the narrator implies, would react to the news of their husband's death with shock and disbelief. Instead of that, Mrs. Mallard immediately understands what's happened and instantly starts grieving for her husband.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. (17)

Here, it's almost as if Josephine thinks her words can open the door and unlock the "keyhole." The way she speaks, "imploring" her sister to let her in, echoes her body language of "kneeling" before the door. Both actions make her seem submissive to her sister. The question is whether Josephine acts this submissive all the time, or is acting unusual because of the tragedy that's taken place.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. (20)

Big word alert: "importune" means to be overly persistent in asking for something. In that case, all the "importunities" Josephine has been laying upon her sister have been annoying. And so, Mrs. Mallard takes her own sweet time in answering the door.

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)

Maybe Shmoop's reading too much into this, but it almost seems like the narrator and Richards are trying too hard to persuade us here about what a great guy Richards is. After all, he wants to beat out any "less careful, less tender friend" so that he can tell Mrs. Mallard what happened in the most delicate way. Either that's super nice and he's just looking out for his friend's wife, or he's kind of stroking his ego by making sure he's the most "careful" and "tender" out of anybody.

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