The action of “The Story of an Hour” is simple: Mrs. Mallard, who suffers from “a heart trouble,” is informed about her husband’s demise in a train accident. At first she is beset by grief, but then she begins to feel a sense of freedom. When she leaves her room and descends the stairs, her husband appears at the front door. Upon seeing her husband alive, Louise Mallard’s heart gives out and she dies.
The story is set during spring, and Louise’s “awakening” is symbolized by the rebirth of nature. Through her bedroom window, Louise sees nature, like herself, “all acquiver with the new spring life.” The internal changes taking place within Louise are mirrored by what she views— when she is distraught with grief, rain falls, and when she realizes her freedom, the skies clear up. What occurs outside the window parallels what is occurring to . . . Read More
Identity and Selfhood
Kate Chopin deals with the issues of female self-discovery and identity in “The Story of an Hour.” After Mrs. Mallard learns of her husband’s death, she is initially overcome with grief. But quickly she begins to feel a previously unknown sense of freedom and relief. At first, she is frightened of her own awakening: “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully.” Her own feelings come upon her, possessing her. When she first utters the words “free, free, free!” she is described as having “abandoned herself.” But after she speaks these words, she relaxes and gains more control over herself. As she imagines life without her husband, she embraces visions of the future. She realizes that whether or not she had loved him was less important than “this possession of self-assertion” she now feels. The happiness Louise gains by this . . . Read More
Josephine is Mrs. Mallard’s sister. It is Josephine who tells Mrs. Mallard of her husband’s death and who implores Louise to let her into the room after she has shut herself inside. Josephine, a woman who embodies the feminine ideal, assumes that Louise is suffering terribly from the news, not knowing that her sister is actually overjoyed with the prospect of being a widow.
See Mrs. Mallard
Brently Mallard, Mrs. Mallard’s husband, is assumed dead after a railroad disaster. When he reappears at the front door, the shock causes Mrs. Mallard’s death.
In the beginning of the story Mrs. Mallard is known simply by her married name. A wife who suffers from “heart trouble,” she is described as ‘ ‘young, with a . . . Read More
Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is the story of an hour in the life of Mrs. Louise Mallard, a young woman whose wrinkles portray “repression” and “strength.” As the story begins, the narrator reveals that Mrs. Mallard has “heart trouble.” Her sister Josephine and her husband’s friend Richards have come to her after hearing of a railroad disaster that has resulted in the death of Mr. Mallard. Both are concerned that the news will make Mrs. Mallard ill and Josephine takes great care to tell her the news as cautiously as she is able.
Mrs. Mallard reacts to the news with “sudden, wild abandonment” and locks herself in her bedroom. In the solitude of her room Mrs. Mallard understands the fundamental change taking place in her life. She sits in a chair, no longer crying, looking out the window at the “new spring life.” She “suspend[s] intelligent thought” and fearfully waits . . . Read More
Each of us wants to live a life where we feel fulfilled and joyous. A few of us accomplish this with seemingly little effort; others struggle on their journey through periods of self doubt, rejection, depression, or the blues. James Baldwin was no different; yet while he struggled toward his own individual fulfillment, he began to feel a driving need to tie the idea of individual effort and fulfillment to the black race. In fact, according to C.W.E. Bigsby, editor of The Black American Writer, the central point of conflict in much of Baldwin’s writing is to show that “the job of ethnic renewal [lies] in individual fulfillment rather than racial separatism or political revolution.”
Putting emphasis on the individual is also a way to portray blacks as unique “members of a community with its own traditions and values,” according to Irving Howe in Dissent. In part, this emphasis stems from racial bias against blacks. It also stems, however, . . . Read More
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, a new form of jazz music was being developed. The style, called “bebop,””bop,” or later,”hard bop,” centered on a very complex and abstract type of soloing during familiar tunes. Often in the solo, only the chords of the original melody would remain the same, and the tune would bear no resemblance to more traditional versions. The soloist would also play at blistering speeds. The earliest bebop musicians were trumpet players Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, pianist Thelonious Monk, and saxophonist Charlie Parker. Parker is often credited as the originator of the genre.
Bebop became very controversial at a time when jazz was gaining respectability, and many of the traditional jazz musicians opposed it. Where traditional jazz music and its more popular subform, swing, encouraged audiences to dance and enjoy themselves, bebop focused attention on the soloist . . . Read More
In James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” a man finally comes to understand the darkness and suffering that consumes his brother, and he begins to appreciate the music that his brother uses to calm those blues.
The main theme of “Sonny’s Blues” is suffering, particularly the sufferings of black people in America. Although James Baldwin presents only one example of overt racism in the story—the death of Sonny’s uncle under the wheels of a car driven by a group of drunken whites—the repercussions of the treatment received by black people is omnipresent. Sonny’s father is tormented by the memory of his brother’s death and suffers from a hatred of white people as a result. This hatred, Baldwin suggests, warps his soul. Sonny’s mother also suffers from the harshness of life in Harlem and from her knowledge that her younger son feels this suffering more strongly than . . . Read More
Creole is a bass player who leads the band that Sonny plays in at the end of the story. He functions as a kind of father figure for Sonny; he believes it is his purpose to guide Sonny through his blues and teach him how to turn them into music. He also attempts to show Sonny’s brother how to understand Sonny.
Although the story is narrated by Sonny’s unnamed older brother, Sonny is the most important character. Sonny is described in a common stereotype of the time, a stereotype that his own brother holds until the end of the story: the heroin-addicted jazz musician. Sonny has just been arrested for “peddling and using heroin” and must do time in a prison upstate.
As the story progresses, however, the reader learns more about Sonny’s life before the arrest. He was the “apple of his father’s eye,” but in his youth he always . . . Read More
James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” opens as the narrator learns from a newspaper that his younger brother, Sonny, has been arrested for dealing heroin. The narrator is taking the subway to his high-school teaching job. At the end of the school day, the “insular and mocking” laughter of his students reminds him that as youths he and Sonny had been filled with rage and had known “two darknesses”—the one of their lives and the one of the movies that made them momentarily forget about their lives. Leaving the school, the narrator comes across an old friend of Sonny’s in the school yard.
While Sonny’s friend and the narrator talk about Sonny’s arrest, they tell each other some of their fears. In front of a bar that blasts “black and bouncy” music, the friend, who is not given a name, says that he “can’t much help old Sonny no more.” This angers the narrator because it reminds him that . . . Read More
“The Rocking-Horse Winner” belongs to the group of stories D. H. Lawrence wrote in the last years of his life. During this period, critics have noted, he abandoned the realism that characterizes his mid-career work, and turned toward a style of short story that more closely resembles the fable or folktale. In the words of Janice Hubbard Harris, in The Short Fiction of D. H. Lawrence, “The Rocking-Horse Winner” and other stories of the period, represent the “desire of a fierce and dying man to prophesy, sum up, assess the world he is leaving rather than present or imitate it.” The story also presents several themes that held Lawrence’s attention throughout his career.
The style and tone of “The Rocking-Horse Winner” reveal immediately that this story comes from the world of fable and legend. The distant, solemn tone of the narrator: ‘ “There was a woman who was beautiful,” signals us that this is an . . . Read More