“The Story of an Hour” Foreshadowing, Ironies
by Rachel L.
January 28, 2008
There are many examples of foreshadowing in the “Story of an Hour.” Right away in the first paragraph the author mentions Mrs. Mallard’s heart trouble. In paragraph four Mrs. Mallard feels it is necessary to rest, as it is noted she feels tired inside and out. In paragraphs five and six she is deeply observant looking outward and hearing things of life. In paragraphs eight through ten she is initially suspended in thoughts of looking outward and inward, she can only stare, she is feeling a range of emotions. Then she really begins sensing something approaching her that she wants to fight. I think this could very well be death. Her erratic breathing around this time could also be contributed to her heart troubles. In paragraphs eleven , twelve, and sixteen she is wrapped up and content with being Free. Body and soul free, which many of us including myself have imagined death to be like. Her perception and joy are heightened. I also have imagined myself that just before death things become clear, on a different level.
The entire poem was ironic, in that she felt a true desire to live just before her death. And although I could find the foreshadowing after reading the story I surely could not have guessed the ending.
‘Story of an Hour;’ Literary Critique
by Alex Craig, Yahoo Contributor Network
April 22, 2012
Kate Chopin’s short piece, “The Story of an Hour,” is about a sickly wife who briefly believes her husband is dead and imagines a whole new life of freedom for her. And then… Well, I’m not going to spoil the ending for you here. In this piece, the main character, Mrs. Mallard, has lost herself. That’s why, even in the midst of her grief over her husband’s death, she can’t stop thinking about the potential such a sad event has to change her life in a positive way. It’s not even the idea that her husband was mean to her, because he sounds nice; it’s the concept that being tied to another person, no matter how great or awful he is, keeps you from being yourself. So what are we supposed to think? Does “The Story of an Hour” suggest that it’s impossible to be tied down, or that we can’t really be ourselves for long? But if you’re not attached to anyone, there’s nobody to share your experience with. So what’s more important, attachment or freedom? Is it ever possible to have both?
In “The Story of an Hour”, there are plenty of literary elements that effect the short piece, such as symbolism. Like the fact that Mrs. Mallard has “heart trouble” one should be taken as more meaningful than just the idea that she’s unhealthy. If that were true, she could have ulcers or be allergic to pineapples. But no. Of all the potential illnesses she could have, she has problems with her heart. Sure, it’s a polite way of describing her condition, but it also reinforces the “trouble” Mrs. Mallard is having with her “heart” within her marriage. Then after she finds out about her husband’s “death.”
The narrator quotes, “she carried herself unwittingly like a Goddess of Victory.” Symbolizing her victory, her triumph of outliving the very man who imprisoned her. It seems as though death is determined to take one of the Mallards’ lives that day, and it just ends up taking a different one than was originally thought. Or, in a more sinister approach, perhaps it would always have been Mrs. Mallard’s fate to receive this kind of particular shock, in order to succumb to her own death; which, granted, the other characters seemed more prepared for.
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice, and you’ve got yourself a plot. The conflict is that Mr. Mallard dies, and Mrs. Mallards’ friends and family must break the news to her gently, because of her heart trouble. The complication is Mrs. Mallard mourning and trying to deal with her unusual feelings. When Mrs. Mallard declares she’s finally free, is the climax of the story. “She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” Then all of a sudden, the suspense begins to creep in, when Louise meets with her sister, and they go downstairs. And finally, Mr. Mallard walks in, surprisingly alive, and Louise feels her entire life shut down before her, and dies; “of the joy that kills.”
As for characterization, Mrs. Louise Mallard is the character we know the most about by far. Of course, that’s not saying much. She’s the protagonist, the center of attention, and the person around whom all the other characters revolve. At the beginning of the story, when Mr. Mallard dies, the other characters (Richards and Josephine) put aside their personal grief to console Mrs. Mallard. Their first priority is taking care of her, making sure she gets through the hard news without dying herself, because she is inflicted with “heart trouble.”
The narrator describes her, physically, as “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” As for Brently Mallard, for much of the story we think Mr. Mallard is dead. He doesn’t appear in person until the end, and even then we don’t know that much about him. Instead, we learn more about Mr. Mallard from the reactions of other people to his supposed death. We don’t know his profession, when he left on this journey, or how frequently he travels, we don’t know anything about him really. This feeds the suspense of the story. As for Josephine, all we really know about her is that she’s Mrs. Mallard’s sister. Josephine seems comforting, since she holds the crying Mrs. Mallard. Later, when Mrs. Mallard is alone by herself in her room, having her ecstatic freedom fit, Josephine is worried about her. And Richards, it’s interesting that Richard’s identifying characteristic is how quick (or not) he is. More than anything else, we learn a lot about Richard’s various response times. At the beginning of the story, it seems like he can’t get to the Mallards’ fast enough to break the news about Mr. Mallard’s death.
The story’s very structure is built on ironic elements. The very elements that will later destroy Mrs. Mallard can all be found in the very first paragraph. “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” Her delicate condition, and the danger of unexpected news and are all highlighted in a twisted sort of way. Chopin used irony to make this story a tease, to force the reader to fill in the blanks about what we don’t know, what we want to know, and what’s going to happen. Between “too late” and “When the doctors came,” Mrs. Mallard has died. Yet the precise details of her death go unmentioned; the feelings she might have had go undescribed. This is ironic considering how detailed the narrator has been in sharing with readers the feelings Mrs. Mallard had been experiencing alone in her room. Now, in the most shocking moment of her life, nobody knows what Mrs. Mallard feels.
In “The Story of an Hour,” probably one of the biggest literary elements, is foreshadowing. Like in the beginning of the story, the narrator explains, “That Richards had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram.” This quote shows “double confirmation”, which almost always alludes to the opposite of the original thought. Or in this case, that Brently Mallard is indeed not dead. Also Chopin points out in the beginning that Mrs. Mallard is inflicted with a very serious heart condition and that she must be treated like a fragile newborn, so the news of her husband’s death could be so shocking that it kills her. But later on in the story, we come to find out that Mr. Mallard’s death doesn’t kill Louise, but brings her back to life in a weird sense. Then when Mr. Mallard comes home, the double confirmation proved earlier on that he was indeed not dead, the news of her husband’s living, causes Mrs. Mallard to die.
Obviously, anyone who sits down to read this is going to finish a lot sooner than someone who sits down to read a full-length novel, so the title of this short piece, isn’t just a title but more of a time length if anything. Short stories are generally smaller in scope than novels, so it works well for the subject of “The Story of an Hour” to be limited to events that can happen in only an hour’s time. We can read about the things that happen to Mrs. Mallard in just about the same amount of time that it takes for them to happen, which is pretty cool. This lends the whole thing a sense of immediacy, in other words, a feeling that things are happening to Mrs. Mallard right as we read them. When the narrator reads, “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long” it brings you back to the foreshadow and even the ironic parts of the story, that she’s probably going to die pretty soon. And what about the “story” part? This literary work is both a story and a “story”; it’s a story Kate Chopin wrote and a “story” Mrs. Mallard lives.
In the title, “story” both describes the form of the tale that Chopin is telling about Mrs. Mallard, as well as the “story” Mrs. Mallard tells herself about the potential her life can hold, once her husband has died.
The literary element that ties everything together (sort of) is what happens at the end of the story, the conflict resolution. In the beginning, the author mentions Mrs. Mallard’s heart condition and how fragile she is. She also uses double confirmation to allude to the fact that Brently mallard is alive, and in the end of the story, Chopin uses all different kinds of elements to tie the story together, while leaving just a little bit of mystery left for the audience to participate in piecing an ending together. She brings Brently back to life, and the shock of him being alive and the fear that Lousie Mallard will have to go back to living her life miserably like she had for the past few years, or however long they had been married, is too much for her “fragile heart” to take in. “Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” So it kills her. And ironically, the doctors say she died of the joy that kills.
“The Story of an Hour,” the short piece by Kate Chopin, in a sense was long because you can see a woman’s entire life change for the better, almost as if she’s reborn, then watch the man she loves return home alive, and it ironically kills her. I don’t believe Brently Mallard was a bad man, I just think he was too overprotective of his delicate wife, and she needed to be alive, to be free. But her husband forbade that. In the end, I tried my best to break this short piece down into the most fluent literary elements that I could. But it’s really up to the reader how the story plays out, everyone will read this story and pick out different things that stand out to them, I picked up on the ironic vibes the most personally. But everyone’s different. In the intro of my paper, I asked, “So what’s more important, attachment or freedom? Is it ever possible to have both?” I believe it is possible to have both. To be attached to someone is to share a physical, emotionally, and mental bond with that person. To be level with that person on all three planes, is difficult, but when you and another person can reach that point in a relationship, and don’t want to kill each other, I believe that’s called love. And I just don’t think Louise and Brently Mallard had reach that unexplainable, mutual feeling, love.
Published by Alex Craig
The Machine That Won the War, by Isaac Asimov, is a story that teaches a valuable lesson about humanity and also has an ironic twist at the The setting is the future of Earth, and a great war had just been won. Two men, Swift and Henderson, are debating over who really won the war for Earth: the giant strategy computer known as Multivac, or the men in charge of making the maneuvers and programming the computer.
John Henderson is an excitable man, while Lamar Swift, the military captain, is calm but rational. While the people hailed the computer,the two really knew who the heroes were. Henderson explained the fact that Multivac was nothing more than a large machine, only capable of doing what it was programmed to do. He stated that ever since the beginning of the war, he had been hiding a secret. It was the fact that some of its (Multivac’s) data might have been unreliable.This conflict, as you will note later, helped win the war.
The great computer was capable of creating a direct battle plan which Earth forces could use to attack their enemies. However, with Henderson inputting faulty data, this caused some of the battle plans to be unreliable. His internal conflict between himself losing his job and wanting to keep it made him jingle with the programming until it seemed right.This foreshadowing helps the reader to see that someone is going to have to act upon Henderson’s faults if the war is to be won.
Swift, the military commander, received these battle plans that Henderson had printed out on the front (the front being the battle front). He, realizing that some of these plans were outrageous, had to act upon a different form of machine. Swifts motivation for not always acting upon what was laid before him helped change the course of the war. He told Henderson that when faced with the difficult decisions, he didn’t use Multivac’s data all of the time. This conflict, making these tough decisions, helps influence the climax.
The climax of the story comes when Swift tells Henderson he used a coin to make all of the tough decisions instead of Multivac’s data. This use of situation[al] irony shows us that in the worst imaginable scenario, the outcome is actually made so simply. The lesson I [the author of this analysis] found in this story is to not always trust what you see before you, and that human beings will forever take chances even in the riskiest of situations. In conclusion, The Machine That Won the War, taught us all a valuable lesson about how humans think, and contained a humorous, ironic ending which stunned (or should have stunned) everyone.
The Machine That Won the War
Copyright (c) 1961 by Mercury Press, Inc.
The celebration had a long way to go and even in the silent depths of Multivac’s underground chambers, it hung in the air.
If nothing else, there was the mere fact of isolation and silence. For the first time in a decade, technicians were not scurrying about the vitals of the giant computer, the soft lights did not wink out their erratic patterns, the flow of information in and out had halted. It would not be halted long, of course, for the needs of peace would be pressing. Yet now, for a day, perhaps for a week, even Multivac might celebrate the great time, and rest.
Lamar Swift took off the military cap he was wearing and looked down the long and empty main corridor of the enormous computer. He sat down rather wearily in one of the technician’s swing-stools, and his uniform, in which he had never been comfortable, took on a heavy and wrinkled appearance.
He said, “I’ll miss it all after a grisly fashion. It’s hard to remember when we weren’t at war with Deneb, and it seems against nature now to be at peace and to look at the stars without anxiety.”
The two men with the Executive Director of the Solar Federation were both younger than Swift. Neither was as gray. Neither looked quite as tired.
John Henderson, thin-lipped and finding it hard to control the relief he felt in the midst of triumph, said, “They’re destroyed! They’re destroyed! It’s what I keep saying to myself over and over and I still can’t believe it. We all talked so much, over so many years, about the menace hanging over Earth and all its worlds, over every human being, and all the time it was true, every word of it. And now we’re alive and it’s the Denebians who are shattered and destroyed. They’ll be no menace now, ever again.” “Thanks to Multivac,” said Swift, with a quiet glance at the imperturbable Jablonsky, who through all the war had been Chief Interpreter of science’s oracle. “Right, Max?”
Jablonsky shrugged. Automatically, he reached for a cigarette and decided against it. He alone, of all the thousands who had lived in the tunnels within Multivac, had been allowed to smoke, but toward the end he had made definite efforts to avoid making use of the privilege. He said, “Well, that’s what they say.” His broad thumb moved in the direction of his right shoulder, aiming upward.
“Because they’re shouting for Multivac? Because Multivac is the big hero of mankind in this war?” Jablonsky’s craggy face took on an air of suitable contempt. “What’s that to me? Let Multivac be the machine that won the war, if it pleases them.”
Henderson looked at the other two out of the corners of his eyes. In this short interlude that the three had instinctively sought out in the one peaceful corner of a metropolis gone mad; in this entr’acte between the dangers of war and the difficulties of peace; when, for one moment, they might all find surcease; he was conscious only of his weight of guilt.
Suddenly, it was as though that weight were too great to be borne longer. It had to be thrown off, along with the war; now! Henderson said, “Multivac had nothing to do with victory. It’s just a machine.”
“A big one,” said Swift.
“Then just a big machine. No better than the data fed it.” For a moment, he stopped, suddenly unnerved at what he was saying. Jablonsky looked at him, his thick fingers once again fumbling for a cigarette and once again drawing back. “You should know. You supplied the data. Or is it just that you’re taking the credit?”
“Wo,” said Henderson, angrily. “There is no credit. What do you know of the data Multivac had to use; predigested from a hundred subsidiary computers here on Earth, on the Moon, on Mars, even on Titan. With Titan always delayed and always that feeling that its figures would introduce an unexpected bias.”
“It would drive anyone mad,” said Swift, with gentle sympathy. Henderson shook his head. “It wasn’t just that. I admit that eight years ago when I replaced Lepont as Chief Programmer, I was nervous. But there was an exhilaration about things in those days. The war was still long-range; an adventure without real danger. We hadn’t reached the point where manned vessels had had to take over and where interstellar warps could swallow up a planet clean, if aimed correctly. But then, when the real difficulties began-”
Angrily-he could finally permit anger-he said, “You know nothing about it.”
“Well,” said Swift. “Tell us. The war is over. We’ve won.”
“Yes.” Henderson nodded his head. He had to remember that. Earth had won so all had been for the best. “Well, the data became meaningless.”
“Meaningless? You mean that literally?” said Jablonsky. “Literally. What would you expect? The trouble with you two was that you weren’t out in the thick of it. You never left Multivac, Max, and you, Mr. Director, never left the Mansion except on state visits where you saw exactly what they wanted you to see.”
“I was not as unaware of that,” said Swift, “as you may have thought.”
“Do you know,” said Henderson, “to what extent data concerning our production capacity, our resource potential, our trained manpower, everything of importance to the war effort, in fact-had become unreliable and untrustworthy during the last half of the war? Group leaders, both civilian and military, were intent on projecting their own improved image, so to speak, so they obscured the bad and magnified the good. Whatever the machines might do, the men who programmed them and interpreted the results had their own skins to think of and competitors to stab. There was no way of stopping that. I tried, and failed.”
“Of course,” said Swift, in quiet consolation. “I can see that you would.”
This time Jablonsky decided to light his cigarette. “Yet I presume you provided Multivac with data in your programming. You said nothing to us about unreliability.”
“How could I tell you? And if I did, how could you afford to believe me?” demanded Henderson, savagely. “Our entire war effort was geared to Multivac. It was the one great weapon on our side, for the Denebians had nothing like it. What else kept up morale in the face of doom but the assurance that Multivac would always predict and circumvent any Denebian move, and would always direct and prevent the circumvention of our moves? Great Space, after our Spy-warp was blasted out of hyperspace we lacked any reliable Denebian data to feed Multivac and we didn’t dare make that public.”
“True enough,” said Swift.
“Well, then,” said Henderson, “if I told you the data was unreliable, what could you have done but replace me and refuse to believe me? I couldn’t allow that.”
“What did you do?” said Jablonsky.
“Since the war is won, I’ll tell you what I did. I corrected the data.”
“How?” asked Swift.
“Intuition, I presume. I juggled them till they looked right. At first, I hardly dared, I changed a bit here and there to correct what were obvious impossibilities. When the sky didn’t collapse about us, I got braver. Toward the end, I scarcely cared. I just wrote out the necessary data as it was needed. I even had the Multivac Annex prepare data for me according to a private programming pattern I had devised for the purpose.”
“Random figures?” said Jablonsky.
“Not at all. I introduced a number of necessary biases.”
Jablonsky smiled, quite unexpectedly, his dark eyes sparkling behind the crinkling of the lower lids. “Three times a report was brought me about unauthorized uses of the Annex, and I let it go each time. If it had mattered, I would have followed it up and spotted you, John, and found out what you were doing. But, of course, nothing about Multivac mattered in those days, so you got away with it.”
“What do you mean, nothing mattered?” asked Henderson, suspiciously.
“Nothing did. I suppose if I had told you this at the time, it would have spared you your agony, but then if you had told me what you were doing, it would have spared me mine. What made you think Multivac was in working order, whatever the data you supplied it?”
“Not in working order?” said Swift. “Not really. Not reliably. After all, where were my technicians in the last years of the war? I’ll tell you, they were feeding computers on a thousand different space devices. They were gone! I had to make do with kids I couldn’t trust and veterans who were out-of-date. Besides, do you think I could trust the solid-state components coming out of Cryogenics in the last years? Cryogenics wasn’t any better placed as far as personnel was concerned than I was. To me, it didn’t matter whether the data being supplied Multivac were reliable or not. The results weren’t reliable. That much I knew.”
“What did you do?” asked Henderson. “I did what you did, John. I introduced the bugger factor. I adjusted matters in accordance with intuition-and that’s how the machine won the war.”
Swift leaned back in the chair and stretched his legs out before him. “Such revelations. It turns out then that the material handed to me to guide me in my decision-making capacity was a man-made interpretation of man-made data. Isn’t that right?”
“It looks so,” said Jablonsky. “Then I perceive I was correct in not placing too much reliance upon it,” said Swift.
“You didn’t?” Jablonsky, despite what he had just said, managed to look professionally insulted.
“I’m afraid I didn’t. Multivac might seem to say, Strike here, not there; do this, not that; wait, don’t act. But I could never be certain that what Multivac seemed to say, it really did say; or what it really said, it really meant. I could never be certain.”
“But the final report was always plain enough, sir,” said Jablonsky.
“To those who did not have to make the decision, perhaps. Not to me. The horror of the responsibility of such decisions was unbearable and not even Multivac was sufficient to remove the weight. But the point is I was justified in doubting and there is tremendous relief in that.”
Caught up in the conspiracy of mutual confession, Jablonsky put titles aside, “What was it you did then, Lamar? After all, you did make decisions. How?”
“Well, it’s time to be getting back perhaps but-I’ll tell you first. Why not? I did make use of a computer, Max, but an older one than Multivac, much older.” He groped in his own pocket for cigarettes, and brought out a package along with a scattering of small change; old-fashioned coins dating to the first years before the metal shortage had brought into being a credit system tied to a computer-complex.
Swift smiled rather sheepishly. “I still need these to make money seem substantial to me. An old man finds it hard to abandon the habits of youth.” He put a cigarette between his lips and dropped the coins one by one back into his pocket. He held the last coin between his fingers, staring absently at it. “Multivac is not the first computer, friends, nor the best-known, nor the one that can most efficiently lift the load of decision from the shoulders of the executive. A machine did win the war, John; at least a very simple computing device did; one that I used every time I had a particularly hard decision to make.”
With a faint smile of reminiscence, he flipped the coin he held. It glinted in the air as it spun and came down in Swift’s outstretched palm. His hand closed over it and brought it down on the back of his left hand. His right hand remained in place, hiding the coin. “Heads or tails, gentlemen?” said Swift.