Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”

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This week I drew the ace of diamonds from my “stories recommended by others” suit. Tip of the cap to Megan, a longtime reader and “honored citizen” of Bibliophilopolis, who recommended this story to me when I was building my short story roster for Deal Me In 2014 late last year.

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An awful lot can happen in “just an hour” can’t it? One thing that could happen is that someone could read this story about ten or fifteen times. It’s that short. This story, published in 1894, packs quite a wallop nonetheless.

A young wife with a heart condition learns from her sister and friend that they have received news her husband was killed in an accident while traveling. She reacts in a completely understandable grief-stricken way and then retires to her bedroom to “be alone.” She sinks into an armchair in front of an open window and experiences something of an epiphany. “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.”

It is only then that the reader learns something more about what kind of married life this woman had, one where she often felt oppressed. She begins to see a “silver lining” in the dire news she has received, thinking that no longer “…would (a) powerful will (be) bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature.” She begins to think of herself as “Free! Body and soul free!” which she keeps whispering to herself. What will the rest of her new life be like now? It isn’t long before the reader finds out…

If you would like to read the story for yourself, it’s available on line in many places, one of them here

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The logo for the TV show “Sixty Minutes.” (i.e, an hour 🙂 ) It was quite familiar to me when I was growing up – not because I watched the program, but because it came on after the late afternoon Sunday football games on CBS, during which we were frequently reminded that – since games usually ran late – it could “be seen in its entirety” following the conclusion of the football broadcast. Anyone else remember that?

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20 Comments

  1. Paula Cappa said,

    October 4, 2014 at 10:24 am

    On my list!

    Like

  2. Paula Cappa said,

    October 4, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Well, I just read this story because it was so short. Chopin is known as an author who can cut deep. This story certainly fulfills that. I find it amazing that so many writing instructors are often saying not to have characters gazing out the window or adding weather conditions to the story as this is cliche and melodramatic. I didn’t find either in this story.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 6, 2014 at 7:22 am

      Generally speaking, that is probably good advice, but “there are exceptions to every rule” and if describing the weather conditions works for a particular story, I say go for it. 🙂

      Like

  3. October 4, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Kate Chopin is probably an author I first read at the wrong time in my life and should give a second chance. But, jeeze, her view of gender politics is so depressing.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 6, 2014 at 7:24 am

      It is depressing. She certainly lived in a different world than we do today.

      Like

  4. Dale said,

    October 4, 2014 at 11:46 am

    I have not read anything by Kate Chopin but I have her story “The Storm” on my short list for 2015. From what I’ve heard, “The Storm” was written sometime around the turn of the 20th century but not published until 1969. Sounded like the subject matter may have postponed the publication.

    “Story of an Hour” sounds very good, too. And I remember the 60 Minutes verbage about seeing it in it’s entirety.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 6, 2014 at 7:27 am

      I haven’t read The Storm, but have heard of it. I have a volume of hers “The Awakening and Other Stories” that will provide at least one story for next year’s DMI.

      P.S. I think Kim picked Chopin’s Story of an Affair for short story month in our old book club. Checking my records momentarily.

      Like

      • Dale said,

        October 6, 2014 at 2:17 pm

        Yes, I did read that! I remember it being pretty good.

        Like

        • Jay said,

          October 7, 2014 at 7:05 am

          I was actually confusing my story titles. The one our book club read was “A Shameful Affair.” 🙂

          Like

  5. Megan said,

    October 4, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Well, I’m honored to be considered an honored citizen! 🙂 And I’m glad you liked the story.

    Like

  6. Jason M. said,

    October 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Just read this for the first time — I’m blown away! What’s amazing to me is that, as many lit classes as I’ve taken in my life, I’ve never come across this story before. It would have been the perfect teaching tool in high school or undergrad, to illustrate any number of lessons. Thank you for posting this — I’m glad I’ve read it!

    And “60 Minutes” still starts late and runs late after Sunday afternoon football games at this time of year; some things will never change!

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 6, 2014 at 7:34 am

      I’m glad you liked it. I had some feedback from a twitter follower (who is a teacher) about how much she loved teaching this story and “being able to tell her students that they’d be able to read, analyze and discuss it all in one class period.”

      I realized after I posted this that the “60 Minutes” effect persists even today, but I do remember that the ticking stopwatch “mesmerized” me as a kid. 🙂

      Like

  7. Randall said,

    October 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Sounds super intriguing! I see that I need to track down some Kate Chopin now….

    Like

  8. Candiss said,

    October 5, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    I recall this story affecting me very deeply when I read it many years ago. I revisited it a couple of years back when it was a reading assignment for my son’s senior (high school) English class. It sparked some good conversation between us regarding the limitations on the lives of women during the time period in which the story takes place and how things have changed since then.

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 6, 2014 at 7:38 am

      I’m glad to hear it is being taught even today, not just from a literary or writing instruction standpoint, but also as a glimpse into how different societal conventions were just a hundred years ago.

      Like

  9. Ti said,

    October 9, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Sounds pretty good to me!

    Like

  10. October 30, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Hi Jay, as you can see I’m playing catch-up with reading your posts as well as with my own reading and reviews. I’ve got a Kate Chopin story (Desirée’s Baby) on my list for this year, but haven’t drawn it yet. But this one is going on my 2015 list right away (says she who has read only 26 so far this year)!

    Like

    • Jay said,

      October 31, 2014 at 7:26 am

      It really is a great story – and worthy of a place on anyone’s DMI roster… 🙂

      Like


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