Study Guide

The Story of an Hour Mortality

By Kate Chopin


Death is so powerful in "The Story of an Hour" that even news of someone else's death, if told the wrong way, can be lethal. Finding out someone hasn't died can be almost as powerful, and deadly, too. This story is unusual in that it allows a character to explore the feelings beyond grief or loss that one might have if a loved one died. Mrs. Mallard's complex reaction to the news of her husband's death speaks to the terrible, almost welcome freedom a tragedy can bring. Ultimately, the fact that death is coming seems certain. It's the question of who gets taken away by death, though, that changes so drastically.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Can "joy" really "kill" (23)? Is that what Mrs. Mallard dies from?
  2. How many clues can you find throughout the story that hint at Mrs. Mallard's coming death?
  3. Do you think Mr. Mallard's grieving process will be similar to or different from Mrs. Mallard's? How so?
  4. How do you think Josephine and Richards' focus on gently breaking the news to Mrs. Mallard helped them deal with their own grief and shock?

Chew on This

Mrs. Mallard's death at the end of the story suggests that her ideas about freedom were just delayed shock, and that she was in fact so grief-stricken her death was only a matter of time.

The passing of a second character to replace the misreported fatality of a first recalls, in its irony, the idea of being unable to escape Death when one's time has come.