Reading Guide for Chopin’s "Story of an Hour" Answer the following questions as fully as possible, using details from the story. Be aware of questions that ask you for more that one response


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Active Reading Guide for Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”

Answer the following questions as fully as possible, using details from the story. Be aware of questions that ask you for more that one response.

  1. What is the first thing we are told about Mrs. Mallard? How does this affect the way people treat her?

*She is afflicted with “a heart trouble” and people “handle with care”

  1. What does the manner of telling Mrs. Mallard the bad news indicated about her customary environment?

*She is treated like a child, as incapable of handling anything difficult

  1. What does paragraph 2 suggest about Richards' feelings for Mrs. Mallard? Why is he in such a hurry? Is the code of the "southern gentleman" at work here, or could there be more to his concern than that?

*He feels like she needs support/is delicate; he does not want a gossipy person to reveal the bad news; a mixture of “southern gentleman” and a friend

  1. In paragraph 3, why are we first told how she does NOT hear the news? What does this reaction suggest about her? What does it suggest about how "ladies" were expected to react?

*To show that she does not have a normal reaction to the news; she may not have cared enough for her husband to be grieved; women were expected to be devastated

  1. What does her passionate response tell us about her? (This is our first real clue as to what sort of person she is--aside from her reported state of health.)

*She really is capable of great emotion, but that the grief will not overwhelm her.

  1. In paragraph 5, note the contrast of motion and stillness. Why is the time of year so important? Delicious ordinarily refers to taste. Who is "tasting" here? What does this detail, as well as the other sensory images, tell you about what she is experiencing?

*Spring=rebirth/new life; she is tasting the possibility of her freedom; she is experiencing an awakening to the idea that she will be in control of her life

  1. In paragraph 8, does her age surprise you? What does her face tell you about her life?

*The reader may expect her to be older; even though she is young, she has been through some kind of tragedy before

  1. In your first reading, what did you guess that "something" in paragraph 9 might be? Does that interpretation change with a second reading? Why is this "message" arriving externally?

*First reading—maybe death, sickness, guilt; Second reading—possibility/freedom; the sense of freedom is tangible

  1. In paragraph 10, “Now" indicates a change--of what kind? What does this description of her hands suggest? Where is "it" truly coming from? Why is her will ineffective to stop it?

*Now—emotional; her hands suggest that she is dainty/weak/unaccustomed to work; she is afraid to accept the power/free will

  1. In paragraph 10, what do "abandon" and "escape" suggest? Is there other imagery of imprisonment in the story?

*That she has been caged like a bird; men bending their will onto women

  1. In paragraph 10, what is happening to her? Why does she repeat "free”? *Transformation; excitement

  1. In paragraph 11, who would consider this joy "monstrous"? What makes her perception "clear and exalted?" Do you agree or do you judge her negatively at this point?

*Family/friends might see her joy at his death as monstrous/like a monster who never cared; the realization that she can be herself; answers will vary on the last part.

  1. There seems to be no question whether her husband loved her, is there? What clues are there of HOW he loved her? *hands folded tenderly; face that looked upon her with love

  1. In paragraph 12, what general statement is made about relationships, particularly between men and women. What might make it a "crime"? Do you agree?

*men were in control; the crime is relating to the power, and no matter if he was cruel or kind, it was still there

  1. In paragraph 15, what does Josephine's plea say about the expectations of those around Louise (now given a name)? *they expected her to be so overwrought that she might make herself sick/kill herself

  1. In paragraph 16, elixir means: 1. a sweetened aromatic solution of alcohol and water, used as a vehicle for medicine. 2. a medicine regarded as a cure for all ills. 3. the quintessence or underlying principle.

How do these different definitions shed light on her revelation? *both medicinal and intoxicating

  1. From paragraph 16 and looking back in the story, just what is coming through an "open window"? *freedom, opportunity, etc.

  2. In paragraph 17, note the repetition of the idea of time. Look back to the title. What is the role of time in this story? *time stands still for that one hour; the hour is but a moment in her life

  1. In paragraph 18, what has she conquered that would make her seem victorious? Note the physical position of each person as she "descends. *conquered the repression/power and is now able to be herself

  1. In paragraph 19, what does the description of Brentley say about him? (And what does the fact that he carries a “grip-sack” instead of a “briefcase” or “suitcase” say about his status?) *he is a strong man, powerful (look at “grip”) and a working class man; maybe on a business trip

  1. What “joy” does the doctor think killed Mrs. Mallard? *overjoyed that he is still alive

  1. Why did Mrs. Mallard really die? *the temporary joy taken away from her

  1. After reading “The Story of an Hour” and Kate Chopin’s biography, how would you characterize Kate Chopin’s view of marriage? Find specific examples from her biography and the story to support your answer. *men were in control and women subservient

  1. Why do you think the story usually considered a work of feminist literature? *see answer #23

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