Literary works have always formed an incredible part of the framework

of any society. They are mostly used as a form of entertainment by the
readers. Of course, there exists variations in the forms of literary
works with some being biographies, thrillers, horror stories, and
fiction among others. Nevertheless, most authors compose literary works
in an effort to outline the ills that they see in the society, as well
as invoke ideas pertaining to an ideal society that they envisage. This,
however, does not undermine or negate the fact that literary works may
be an author’s way of escaping from his or her own troublesome life or
even underlining the ironies that he or she may have undergone in his or
her life. This appears to be the case for Kate Chopin, whose life knew
its fair share of problems. Nevertheless, her works seem to underline
the fact that things are not always as they seem to be on the outside.
Kate Chopin was born in 1950 in St. Louis, Missouri as Katherine
O’Flaherty to an Irish father and a French mother. Kate was the 3rd of
five children in her family. However, her sisters died in their infant
years while her brothers died in their early twenties. In essence, she
was the only one in her family to go past her twenties. Her father died
in 1855, after which Kate became extremely close to her mother,
grandmother, as well as great grandmother. On the same note, she
developed keen interest in poetry, fairy tales, contemporary and classic
novels, as well as religious allegories (Koloski et al 45). Kate got
married to Oscar Chopin by the age of 20 and had all her six kids by the
time she was 28. Oscar, however, died in 1882, leaving Kate with a debt
amounting to $12000 from his failed cotton business. Kate, nevertheless,
made incredible efforts to keep her husband’s plantation in operation
but later sold it and moved back to Louisiana. Her writing career
started after she underwent depression thanks to the death of her
husband and mother (Koloski et al 54). This was a way of keeping her
engaged, expelling her immense energy, as well as getting her to speak
of her innermost fears. Nevertheless, her works, undoubtedly betray her
feminist attitude, ideas that were deemed exterior to the society at
that time (Koloski et al 57). It is, therefore, no wonder that her works
were not appreciated at that time but came to be appreciated decades
later.
The story of an Hour
“The Story of an Hour” is a short story in which Kate explores a
series of emotions that a lady named Louise Mallard undergoes upon
having news pertaining to her husband’s death. Her sister delivers the
news in a merciful manner fearing that she may die from the sad news
considering that she has a heart condition. However, Mrs. Mallard
retreats to her room alone, apparently to mourn the death of her
husband. Surprisingly, she feels a sudden sense of exhalation and
freedom from her husband’s death. It turns out, however, that her
husband did not die in the railroad disaster in which case he appears to
her some time later. Mrs. Mallard dies of the shock of her husband’s
resurfacing.
This story is rife with ironies right from its beginning. The friends
and relatives of Mrs. Mallard make the mistaken assumption that she
deeply loved her husband and enjoyed a blissful relationship with him,
in which case they take immense precaution in delivering the news of his
death to her (Berkove 152). Unbeknown to them, the news brings Mrs.
Mallard one full hour of life, or rather an hour full of joyous freedom.
This is ironical as they think that the news would have the exact
opposite effect on her. While Mrs. Mallard initially shows some grief,
she finds exhalation and joy in it. In essence, Richard’s groom
message, while understandably sad in his eyes is incredible news to her.
In addition, it is ironic that Richard had tried to conceal Mallard
from Mrs. Mallard when he reappeared. The irony rests in the fact that
at the beginning of the story, Richard had hurried to deliver the sad
news to Mrs. Mallard to ensure that the news was not delivered by some
other careless person. While he had the best of motives in doing so, it
is worth noting that had he delayed for an hour, Mrs. Mallard would not
have died an hour later as Mr. Mallard would have gotten home first
(Berkove 153). On the same note, it is worth noting that the doctors
analyzing the death of Mrs. Mallard opine that she succumbed to “heart
disease joy that kills”. While this may be right in one way
considering that Mrs. Mallard had experienced incredible joy in the last
hour, the doctors miss the point entirely on the joy that had killed
her. She did not die from the joy of the reappearance of her husband,
rather she just realized that the incredible joy that she had
experienced in the last one hour was no more.
Mrs. Mallard’s life, in general, underlines the most irony in the
story. While she has essentially been alive, her soul has been dead as
her body has been subject to the will of her husband. His death,
therefore, comes as a new chapter in her life, which only lasts for an
hour. While she yearns for the summer days and looks forward to them,
she will not see the end of the spring day (Berkove 157). Her married
life is ironic as it brings to her a living death rather than joy. This
is the same irony that bedevils her new life, which grows from her
supposed moment of sadness for her “dead” husband. Its vision
pertaining to a “long progression of years” turns out no longer than
an hour in a spring day.
The Cadian Ball
This is a short story of young people who attend people trying to find
marriage suitors. The stoy revolves around Calixta, the belle of the
party after whom two young men namely Alcee and Bobinot are, albeit for
different reasons (Toth 37). Alcee simply wants to sleep with Calixta,
while Bobinot wants her for a wife. Calixta, on the other hand, is
attracted to Alcee as he is more handsome and wealthy (William et al,
38). Originally, Alcee was courting Clarisse, who had failed to accept
him. However, when Alcee sneaks from the dance with Calixta, Clarisse
follows them and asks Alcee to return stating that a terrible thing had
happened (Toth 45). Once she has led him away, Clarisse admits to him
that nothing terrible had happened rather, she was in love with him.
Eventually, Calixta ends up marrying Bobinot to whom she was not
attracted but for whom she settles.
The story comes with a number of ironies. First, the characters are not
aware of the reasons why the other parties love them. Calixta assumes
that Alcee truly loves her and vice versa. This, however, is not the
case as Calixta wants to be with him because of his incredible looks and
wealth, while Alcee only wants to sleep with her (William et al, 34).
This is more clearly revealed when Alcee settles for Clarisse yet they
were just about to discuss their previous relationship with Calixta. It
is unclear whether Clarisse loves Alcee as much as she says or she just
said it out of desperation on seeing him leave with Calixta (William et
al, 39). This is the same case for Calixta who eventually marries
Bobinot, not out of love but simply because she needs to settle.
In conclusion, literary works have formed a fundamental part of the
contemporary society. While the audience usually uses literary works for
entertainment, the authors are usually speaking about the evils that
they see in the societies, as well as creating a vision of the idea
society that they would love. In the case Kate Chopin, she uses her
literary works to underline the fact that things are not always the way
that they seem on the outside. This is seen in the varied ironies in her
stories “The Story of an Hour” and “The Cadian Ball”. In the
“Story of an hour” the characters assume that Mrs. Mallard will die
of grief from her husband’s death. However, she feels a sense of
happiness and freedom instead and ends up dying after he reappears, not
out of happiness but after seeing that her happiness was short-lived. In
the case of “The Cadian Ball” the characters make assumptions as to
the reasons the other parties love them. Calixta loves Alcee for his
money and looks, while he only wants to sleep with her. Eventually, they
end up marrying other partners, with Alcee marrying Clarisse and Calixta
marrying Bobinot.
Works cited
Berkove, Lawrence I. “Fatal Self-Assertion in Kate Chopin`s `The Story
of an Hour`.” American Literary Realism 32.2, pp. 152–158. 2000,
Print
Koloski, Bernard. Awakenings: The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival.
Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, LA. 2009, Print
William, L., Andrews, Hobson, Trudier Harris, Minrose C. Gwwin. The
Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology. Norton, W. W. &
Company. 1997, Print
Toth, Emily. “Reviews the essay `The Shadows of the First Biographer:
The Case of Kate Chopin`”. Southern Review (26). 1990, Print
Surname PAGE * MERGEFORMAT 1

BACK TO TOP