The appeal of Chopin’s The Story of An Hour, for me, is the its surprise ending. Its unexpectedness is further heightened by the quiet start of the plot and the gradual build-up towards what the reader thinks would be a predictable ending, only for the writer to take everything away from the heroine—and from the reader, too. Chopin uses Mrs. Mallard’s point of view so we experience the narrative through her. When the story opens, we learn of Mr.
Mallard’s death but this fact is only hinted at. Later on, we join her in her grief, from the weeping “with sudden abandonment” to the intermittent sobbing that finally puts her sleep. When she awakes, Mrs. Mallard feels an emotion she could not place, and the reader begins to be as bewildered as she is. Chopin describes this yet unnamed sensation with metaphors such as stating how “her bosom rose and fell” until the exclamatory exclamation of “free, free, free! We exalt with her realization and sympathize as she describes how she felt repressed in her marriage.
However, this joy is short-lived when she sees her husband—alive after all. There is the suspenseful moment filling three paragraphs of her sister knocking hard upon the door. Chopin waits until the final paragraph to spring her surprise so that we also share in Mrs. Mallard’s shock and simply gape in disbelief when we read the final line describing how Mrs. Mallard “had died of heart disease—of joy that kills. ”