The events in "The Story of an Hour" happen quickly, and the author herself does not mince words in relaying them. Yet it seems like life can change drastically, and a person can change dramatically, in under an hour. Mrs. Mallard spends less than an hour processing the news that her husband has died. In doing so, she moves rapidly through her grief to arrive at a "dream" or "story" of what life by herself will be like. In less than an hour, she's gotten used to the idea of a whole different future – a future she's excited about, instead of a future that she dreads. But the work of a few seconds – seeing her husband alive and well – proves her wrong and blows up that new dream of a possible future path.
Questions About Time
Besides the idea of an hour passing, what other references to time can you find in the story? How are those significant?
How long would you say Mr. and Mrs. Mallard had been married? What evidence would you use to support your assessment?
How can we connect the idea of a short period of time to the story's subject main subject, death? What do you think Chopin might be trying to say about the importance of time in one's life by setting the story in such a limited timeframe?
Chew on This
Chopin's story shows that knowledge conveyed in a second can change everything.
Through "The Story of an Hour," Chopin suggests that in the presence of life-changing realizations, the passage of time becomes elastic and flexible.