Texts and Tips on Essays, Literary Studies, and Critical Analysis
Analyzing Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” with Help from Critical Sources
Here are two body paragraphs from an essay on “The Story of an Hour.” These paragraphs demonstrate how to use critical sources in a literary analysis essay.
“The Story of an Hour” represents Kate Chopin’s interest in the awakening of the self. This awakening is necessarily independent and individual. It takes place for Louise Mallard when she suddenly finds herself alone, free of her husband, and thrust into a life where “there would be no one to live for.” This moment of deep feeling for Mrs. Mallard is described by critic Harold Bloom as “the ecstatic rebirth of the self.” Bloom highlights this rebirth as a central element in Chopin’s larger body of work, including her novel, The Awakening. And it is clearly at the heart of “The Story of an Hour.”
While critics have often interpreted “The Story of an Hour” as a statement on the confining and even sexist qualities of turn-of-the-century marriage, some scholars have pointed out reasons to refrain from seeing the story as a statement on marriage. In “Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour’” Lawrence L. Berkove suggests that the story is best seen as a depiction of an unreasonable “manifestation of an extreme of self-love” (157). Berkove argues that Louise Mallard’s embrace of a radical self-love effectively negates the possibility for maintaining any sort of social life – married or otherwise (158). Figuratively and literally then, her self-love kills her. This argument is helpful, especially in the way it underscores a fundamental irony in the story.