"The Story of an Hour" is an 1894 short story by Kate Chopin. It's is one of her most famous short works, partly because of its surprise ending but also due to its underlying feminist theme.
The characters in "The Story of an Hour" interact very little, and much of the action happens in Louise Mallard's imagination. In fact, in its original publication this story was titled "The Dream of an Hour." How each character perceives what is happening builds to a plot twist near the end, and the tragic (or is it?) outcome.
- Louise Mallard (Mrs. Mallard): In the story, she's referred to by her married name, which suggests how closely her identity is connected to her husband. We learn she has "heart trouble." She shuts herself up in her room when she finds out her husband is dead.
- Brently Mallard (Mr. Mallard): Married to Mrs. Mallard, he is believed to be dead in a train accident. We see little of him until the final paragraph, but learn he may be controlling toward his wife, with indirect references to how a person tries to bend the will of another.
- Josephine: Louise Mallard's sister, who breaks the news of Brently Mallard's death to his wife. Josephine holds her sister while she weeps with "with sudden, wild abandonment," and implores Mrs. Mallard to come out when she retreats to her room to contemplate the situation.
- Richards: Brently Mallard's friend. He was in the newspaper office when the news of the train accident arrived. After confirming the news, he went to Mrs. Mallard's house to pass on what he had learned.
Below are some questions to consider when studying "The Story of an Hour." This is just one part of the study guide series on this short story. Please see below for additional helpful resources.
- What is Louise Mallard's mood, versus what her sister thinks it is?
- Can we read Louise Mallard's "heart trouble," beyond the literal meaning? What could that mean in the context of Mrs. Mallard's relationship with her husband?
- What was the "something coming to her"?