The Story of an Hour


Kate Chopin

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The Story of an Hour Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Kate Chopin

Born Catherine O’Flaherty in 1850, Kate Chopin was raised in St. Louis, Missouri by well-off, socially established parents. An Irish immigrant, her father was a prosperous businessman, while her mother came from the well-respected French community of St. Louis. At the age of 20, Chopin married the son of a successful family in the cotton industry. Together they had six children and lived in New Orleans until eventually moving to the French town of Cloutierville, Louisiana in 1879. There, her husband owned and ran a general store until he died in 1882, at which point Chopin rather unconventionally took over the shop’s operation, thereby becoming a self-sufficient widow. This move went against what was considered normal and acceptable for women at the time, and Chopin was widely judged by her surrounding community. Eventually, in 1884, she moved back to St. Louis to live with her mother and began writing short stories for popular American magazines. Her writing often championed the kind of female independence she had become notorious for in Cloutierville; her first novel, At Fault, for instance, controversially examined the idea of divorce and paved the way for the fearless independence of her later works such as The Awakening, which was critiqued and banned by libraries and bookstores alike. Chopin died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage in 1904, leaving behind three novels, two collections of short stories, and one play. Although her work was relatively unpopular at the time of her death, her legacy as both an important American novelist in her own right, and one of the first female authors to address gender inequality, has only grown.
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Historical Context of The Story of an Hour

“The Story of an Hour” was published in 1894, one year after the first U.S. state granted women the right to vote. Though it would be almost another thirty years before the country passed the 19th amendment, which won women the federal right to vote, the tides of social change had started to turn. Early strains of feminist thought—though it was not yet called this—had started to take hold of certain corners of public discourse. This was in part the result of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848, where women’s rights advocates gathered to discuss gender equality. The suffragists (as they were called) sought to address unfair limitations placed on women by society and the law, ultimately fighting toward winning the right to vote. “The Story of an Hour” showcases many of the suffragist’s common concerns by placing at its center a woman who suddenly finds herself no longer financially or socially dependent on a man.

Other Books Related to The Story of an Hour

Like many of Chopin’s stories and novels, “The Story of an Hour” is interested in examining female independence. Her controversial novel, The Awakening, explores a similar idea by following the progression of its female protagonist’s extramarital affair and subsequent life of freedom from her husband (as well as her eventual death by suicide). Much like “The Story of an Hour,” The Awakening tracks moments of personal revelation, especially those that lead to a recognition of freedom and independence. Whereas Chopin’s earlier work—like “The Story of an Hour,” as well as other short stories contained in her collection A Night in Acadie—placed unconventional women at the center of their narratives without necessarily endorsing a break from society’s expected gender roles, The Awakening did not shy away from endorsing female independence in a provocative and unprecedented manner.
Key Facts about The Story of an Hour
  • Full Title: The Story of an Hour
  • When Written: April 19, 1894
  • When Published: 1894
  • Literary Period: American Realism
  • Genre: Realistic fiction
  • Setting: The domestic realm of the late 19th century.
  • Climax: Having accepted and rejoiced in her newfound freedom, Louise exits her bedroom only to find her husband coming through the front door, a sight that fatally shocks her heart with a “joy that kills.”
  • Antagonist: The sexist and inhibiting expectations of women in 19th century society.
  • Point of View: Third-person omniscient

Extra Credit for The Story of an Hour

Vogue Magazine. “The Story of an Hour” was originally published as “The Dream of an Hour” in Vogue magazine. Back then, Vogue was a newspaper published every week and was intended to cater to the upper class of New York. The publication also published another of Chopin’s most famous short stories, “Désirée’s Baby.”

Film Adaptation. In 1984, PBS aired a film adaptation of “The Story of an Hour.” The film was called “The Joy that Kills,” taken from the story’s last line, and was written by Tina Rathborne and Nancy Dyer.