Irony in Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour
The irony is an expression of meaning using a language that is opposite and in a humorous way. Kate Chopin’s novel The Story of an Hour employs irony to make the person reading it understand the unpredictable events in life that could arise. She utilizes situational sarcasm that shows the opposite of what is supposed to happen and dramatic irony that enables the reader to know something that is expected, yet the character did not know about it initially.
Therefore, The Story of an Hour shows situational irony in the reaction and emotional state of Mrs. Mallard when she learned about the passing away of her husband. She “wept once, with sudden, wild abandonment” after Josephine broke the tragic news (Karori, 2020, p. 2547). She went upstairs to have time and mourn alone. This made Brently’s friend Richard and sister Josephine think that she was upset. Most women in this context would have reacted similarly upon receiving such devastating news. The author reiterates, “she did not hear the story like many other women have, with a crippling failure to accept its meaning” (Karori, 2020, p. 2549). Mrs. Mallard finally appears relieved now that she is alone in her bedroom; she is no longer devastated by the death of her husband. “A barely audible word escaped her scarcely parted lips as she restrained herself. “Free, free, free!” she exclaimed repeatedly under her breath (Karori, 2020, p. 2554).
The expectations would have been that Mrs. Mallard would be undergoing a gloomy moment and be full of sorrow while reflecting on the death of her husband. Instead, she keenly observes in the distance segments, the blue skies, fluffy clouds, and the singing birds. She inhales the fresh air, saturated with fragrances, and enjoys the approaching sensation of rain. She is open to new opportunities and ready to welcome her freedom since she is now free from marriage. This signifies the beginning of a new chapter of life for Mrs. Mallard. The memories she has over her husband are directed to the dreams she had about her future life after his death and how she has to live by herself from then onwards.
Situational and dramatic irony is also shown when she discovers that she can now assert independent willpower and do whatever she wants without having to seek permission from anyone. She continues to deceive everyone into thinking that she really loved the husband, but the reality is that it was all fake since her grieving was all lies. She made Josephine believe that she had fallen ill when in a real sense, she was celebrating her happier life ahead. Mrs. Mallard considered herself free from a union that was oppressive and miserable. This realization is only known to her, and this brings out dramatic irony.
However, her happiness is for a short while as she is surprised to see the husband is still alive. She gets a heart attack that the doctor described as “joy that kills” (Karori, 2020). As per Ewell, the death of Mrs. Millard revealed that she was unhappy seeing her husband alive again. She was angry and disappointed because she only had very little taste of true independence, and so, she opted to die rather than go back to the oppressive union once again. The title of this narrative, The Story of an Hour, demonstrates that all those events took a short period. Thus, this is where the verbal irony comes in when the events that occur in the story seem like they have taken a lifetime.
Irony in The Story of an Hour transforms a bland and repetitive nature of a narrative or story into a brilliant one that incorporates a somewhat surprising aspect. The reader, therefore, is shocked by the twisting the author uses to make the storyline livelier. This enables the person who reads the tale to believe in some of the events only to find out later that eventually, the outcome was the opposite of what had transpired.
Karori, I. (2020). Transitivity Analysis of Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” Journal of Advanced Research in Dynamical and Control Systems, 12(SP7), 2546-2557. Web.