Narrative Voice in The Story of an Hour
“When the physicians came they stated she had died of cardiovascular disease– of joy that eliminates” (Chopin 758). This is a quote from “The Story of an Hour” written by Kate Chopin in 1894 and first published on December 6 1894 in Vogue under the title “The Dream of an Hour” (Lanser 254). The story may look like a report, but there is no historic evidence for it. Kate Chopin was born in 1851 in St. Louis, had six kids and started composing after her hubby’s unexpected death in 1885 (Lanser 246). Chopin is most understood for her novel The Awakening composed in 1899 (Lanser 246). In her stories and novels Chopin points out styles such as gender, independence, class and race, and the rebellion versus constraints (“Kate Chopin’s Styles”). In “The Story of an Hour” Chopin addressed the battle of ladies at the turn of the 19th century and the development of the ‘New Woman’. The term ‘New Woman’ was established by Sarah Grand at the end of the Victorian Age, when women tried to break out of their Victorian functions and began to life a free life they chose (Grand 271). The New Women ideology led to modifications in females’s rights, the meaning of gender roles, the education of ladies and labor limitations (Grand 271). The Woman in “The Story of an Hour” discovers herself faced with an abrupt flexibility, after her hubby’s death, unidentified to her and reveals traits of the New Lady in her advancement. The narrating voice of the story, can not easily be cleared and tosses up lots of questions and for that reason is to be analyzed in the following essay.
Reading Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” brings up numerous concerns worrying the characters, the storyteller and the situations under which the story stemmed. A lot of striking is the concern of the narrative voice, for it is not obvious in the story who the storyteller is.The primary step to analyzing the narrator is to discover a definition of the term ‘storyteller’. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms & & Literary Theory differentiates three standard kinds of storyteller, according to “Plato and Aristotle; (a) the speaker (or any sort of writer) who utilizes his own voice; (b) one who presumes the voice of another individual or individuals, and speaks in a voice not his own; (c) one who uses a mix of his own voice and that or others” (storyteller). In the story “The story of an Hour” it is unclear who the speaker is, and whether the author Chopin is utilizing her own voice for the narrating. For that reason another field of analysis is needed and can be discovered in Gerard Genette’s Story Discourse, where Genette comes up with numerous major locations of interest. Those are order, period, frequency, mood, voice and some subcategories like focalization and point of view (Genette 10). Genette makes a rigorous difference in between voice and focalizer. The voice is the individual who speaks and can be overt or hidden, part of the story world or beyond the story world. While the term focalizer, which is a replacement for the term ‘viewpoint’ means the person who sees or perceives. Genette figures out 3 types of focalization: the internal focalization, the external focalization and zero focalization (Huhn et al. 115). Analyzing the voice and focalization can help uncovering the narrative voice. In order to analyze the voice and focalization it is very important to analyze the lead character because frequently the primary character has a relation to the narrating voice or is the individual, through whose eyes the reader focalizes the story. Nevertheless as Fernando Ferrara discusses in his model for studying fictional characters, there are various levels on which the character needs to be uncovered in order to do a complete storyteller analysis (Lanser 226-227). The surface area level includes the phraseology and the temporal stance, while on the levels below the specific habits, the psychological tendencies, the character characteristics, qualities and habits and the ways of seeing and speaking are essential (Lanser 226). In order to do so in the following the lead character will be analyzed.
In the start, Mrs. Mallard, the main character of “The Story of an Hour” seems to be a weak and sick old woman waiting on her spouse to come back home from a journey, which can be seen in the opening sentence. “Understanding that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart problem, terrific care was required to break to her as gently as possible the news of her spouse’s death” (Chopin 756). The obscurity of “heart difficulty” is brought on by a lack of understanding of the reader (Chopin 756). However later in the story she is described as “young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength.”, leaving one to realize that the previous presumptions were incorrect and developing an entirely brand-new photo of Mr. Mallard’s other half (Chopin 765). Her reactions to the news of her husband’s death contribute to the photo of her as a strong woman. “There would be no powerful will flexing hers in that blind persistence with which males and females believe they have a right to enforce a personal will upon a fellow-creature.” (Chopin 757). Not only does she not feel regret over her spouse’s death however she finally feels free and able to live her own life again. The way her sister Josephine tells her the news of her other half’s death, “in broken sentences; veiled tips that exposed in half concealing” (Chopin 756) is an essential crucial quote to analyzing Mrs. Mallard. Just as her sis informed her in sentence fragments of Mr. Mallard’s death, Mrs. Mallard is only able to understand her freshly earned freedom in damaged words “”Free! Body and soul free!”‘ she kept whispering.” (Chopin 756). After Mrs. Mallard accepts her liberty the reader for the very first time learns more about her as Louise and not as the wife of Mr. Mallard, but as an independent lady. “Louise open the door!” (Chopin 758). After her minute of grief everything appears brighter for her and better. Her way of seeing and speaking opportunities from unfortunate in the beginning to pleased in the end. In the first lines of the story words like “exhaustion” and “haunted” are utilized to explain her physical and psychological health status (Chopin 756). While in the end she is described as “bring herself unknowingly like a goddess of Triumph” (Chopin 756) and she now is able to speak in whole sentences and not just fragments anymore. “Go away. I am not making myself ill” (Chopin 758). Now she also has favorable ideas for the future. “She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was just yesterday she had believed with a shudder that life may be long” (Chopin 758). Once she finds out that her spouse is still alive she “pass away [s] of heart disease– of joy that eliminates” (Chopin 758). It can be seen in Louise’s actions and behavior that she is multidimensional and not just a surface area character.
In the following it will be examined who (possibly) is the narrating voice of the story is.The narrative starts off with a prequel about Mrs. Mallard’s physical condition, declaring her to be “affected with a heart trouble” and offering info to the reader that is not given to Mrs. Mallard.” [G] reat care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.” (Chopin 765). The reality that the reader understands more than the character Mrs. Mallard can be utilized as evidence that she is not or rather can not be the narrative voice in the story. Likewise in the end the story goes on after the death of Louise Mallard and again the narrator tells more than the character might know, “when the physicians came they stated she had died of heart disease– of happiness that eliminates.” (Chopin 758). The reader learns more about the cause for Mrs. Mallard’s death, which she plainly might not view on her, own leaving the concern open, who the narrative voice may come from. It is quickly identifiable that the storyteller is a third person storyteller moreover an imaginary voice, outside the story world. The storyteller could also be seen as an omniscient voice for he is keeping from the characters that Mr. Mallard is still alive and will arrive home and he is not entirely reporting the occurring but acting as conciliator between reader and story. It is conceivable that by “virtue of conventions connecting the author’s social identity with that of the heterodiegetic narrative voice, the narrator is female”, however there is no evidence in the story for the gender of the narrator (Lanser 250).
In the beginning and completion, when the storyteller has a lead in understanding to the characters and the reader, the focalization can not be assigned to a particular character and for that reason it is a zero focalization, where the focalizer does not underlie any constraints. However in some parts of the story it seems that the focalization is limited to Mrs. Mallard. “She knew that she would weep once again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death” (Chopin 757). In this part the reader likewise gets an insight into her sensations and emotion. Therefore it appears as if the focalization indeed is fixed to Mrs. Mallard, since she is the only character that perceives.
The spatial sequences of the story go hand in hand with Mrs. Mallard’s focalization and reinforce the idea of her as focalizer of parts of the story. The story opens in the newspaper workplace where Richards, a buddy of Mr. Mallard, receives a verification of Mr. Mallard’s death in a flashback. “He had just put in the time to ensure himself of its truth by a second telegram” (Chopin 756). The paper office is a public location, which adds to the absolutely no focalization at the start of the story. The setting then changes to Mr. Mallard’s home, a more personal environment, but because of the existence of Josephine and Richards it is still not entirely personal for Mrs. Mallard. There are still the social rules and conventions she needs to stay with. Her reception of the news marks the turning-point in focalization. The reader from now on gets a much deeper and deeper insight into her emotional state, her ideas and her conscience. After the “storm of sorrow had invested itself she disappeared to her space alone. She would have no one follow her” (Chopin 756). Now lastly alone in her individual space she views her surroundings as intense and delighted and she can lastly see nature in all his pride. “The tasty breath of rain was in the air. The notes of a distant tune which some one was singing reached her faintly, and many sparrows were twittering in the eaves” (Chopin 756). Form line to line the setting closes more and more to Mrs. Mallard’s mind, ending with her being totally free in her mind. However the setting switches to a more public place, as Josephine and Louise stroll down the stairs together. They are now in the entrance hall of your home, where the social constraints once again come into action. When entering public ground the focalization turns away from Mrs. Mallard and once again turns into zero focalization. To summarize the focalization and setting turn from the outer world to the inner world of Mrs. Mallard and then again to the outer world, for that reason the setting can be seen as a guideline for focalization.
Nevertheless Mrs. Mallard’s conscious makes up an even more exact standard for the focalization of the story. Her psychological movement goes from “unconscious to awareness of her desire to be ‘”body and soul free”‘” (Lanser 254). The focus moves from the unnamed group of individuals, “excellent care was required to break to her as gently as possible the news of her spouse’s death” (Chopin 756) through Josephine, “it was her sister Josephine who told her” (Chopin 756) and Richards, “her partner’s friend Richards existed, too”, (Chopin 756) to Mrs. Mallards own habits and thoughts “her pulses beat fast, and the rushing blood warmed and unwinded every inch of her body” (Chopin 756). This motion is then reversed after she leaves her room and rejoins the group (Lanser 253). It moves from her thoughts and sensations back to Josephine, “Josephine was kneeling prior to the closed door” (Chopin 756), to Richard’s standing at the bottom of the stairs, connecting to Bentley Mallard “who went into” (Chopin 756) the hall, and lastly reaching the unnamed group, “the medical professional came they said she died of heart problem” (Chopin 756), which stands for the general caretaking neighborhood (Lanser 254).
The reader’s awareness of Mrs. Mallard moves similar to the focus reaching a deep awareness of her mindful. At first it is known that she has a physical disability called “heart difficulty” (Chopin 756), that makes her seem weak. The heart trouble could have aroused from an illness or an emotional distress, however it is never discussed specific where the difficulty comes from (Lanser 254). Then the reader is informed how she reacts to the news of her spouse’s death and gets an inside into her. “She did not hear the story as numerous females have heard the same, with a paralyzed failure to accept its significance. She wept at the same time, with abrupt, wild abandonment, in her siblings arms” (Chopin 756). This quote reveals us her external reaction and some insight. Crucial this quote produces a connection between the reader and the primary character since of the generalization in the first sentence. Once she is alone in her private space the reader discovers her sensations and habits. “There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and appeared to reach into her soul” (Chopin 756). Followed by info about her appearance. “She was young, with a reasonable, calm face” (Chopin 756). “The significance of her physical look” (Lanser 254). “It was not a glance of reflection, however rather suggested a suspension of smart thought” (Chopin 757). Continuing with her ideas and sensations. “She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous delight that held her” (Chopin 757). “There would be no powerful will flexing hers in that blind determination with which males and females believe they have a right to enforce a private will upon a fellow-creature” (Chopin 757). By this line there is just entirely internal focalization. When Josephine is asking for entryway there is another glance into her mind, which shows her unhappiness with the life she had (Lanser 254). As soon as she is leaving her space the reader just gets to know the external indications of her happiness and success (Lanser 254). “There was a feverish accomplishment in her eyes, and she carried herself unknowingly like a goddess of Success” (Chopin 758). Lastly there is the public cry, “but Richards was far too late” (Chopin 758).
In conclusion it can be said that the voice can not be designated to a particular character which the personality of the narrator stays unknown to the reader. Convention would desire the narrator to be a female, adjusting the gender to the author’s gender, however there is no textual evidence to that concept and Kate Chopin never commented on that. What can be taken a look at is that the story is told by a third person, heterodiegetic, possibly omniscient storyteller that is not part of the story world. This narrator or narrating voice presents the reader to the story and offers extra info, through a flashback that the characters in the story do not understand. The focalization that Genette introduced, modifications a number of times during the story. Completely the story can be divided into various parts, where the focalization slips from no focalization to a fixed, internal focalization on Mrs. Mallard and back to zero focalization. These parts run side by side with the physical health status of Mrs. Mallard and the settings of the story. Initially there is have no focalization on the weak Mrs. Mallard in a public place with the reader not having insight into her conscious. Altering to the fixed, internal focalization of Mrs. Mallard alone in her room where the reader views everything she perceives and learns more about what Ferrara called the levels under the surface. Her habits, emotional state, appearance and interests are main. At that point in the story the reader turns much deeper and deeper into her mindful ending with a fixed sight on her mind. Finally ending with the focalization extending back to zerofocalization, in the entrance hall, which contributes a public sphere where she is familiar with that her hubby lives and passes away “of joy that kills.” (Chopin 758). The turn from silence to speech to silence, as it can be backtracked in the story is a typical practice in ladies’s discourse (Lanser 255). As well is the modification in the way of seeing and speaking. When she acknowledges that she is finally devoid of her partner and social restrictions, she sees the world brighter and her sentences are turning kind damaged sentence fragments into entire sentences.