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The Long Development of a Short Story.
 
 
An Analysis of “The Story of an Hour” from two Literary Perspective’s
Posted on December 7th, 2011 at 7:32 pm by Jessica Danielle Powell and

Analysis of the Story of an Hour Using: The Nature of the Linguistic Sign by Saussure described by Ritcher.

An Introduction to The Nature of The Linguistic Sign

  1. A Word is a double entity a concept and a sound image. (Ritcher 842)
    1. The Word is associated with an object. (Ritcher 842)
    2. The only associations that allow the word “tree” to be associated with the picture and sound of a “tree” conform us to reality or in other words make that WORD a living thing for us psychologically. [We often disregard what others may have imagined] (Ritcher 842)
    3. The sound image is not just a material sound but the psychological imprint of the sound makes on our senses [hearing, smelling, touching, seeing, and tasting] (Richter 842)
    4. There is a sign which is the WORD, the signified which is the concept, and the signifier which is the sound image. By using these three words to pull apart and make sense of language ambiguity disappears. (Ritcher 842)
    5. Language shapes the world around us.
    6. Sign, Signified, Signifier (Ritcher 843)
      1. Sign: The Word is merely a product of associating the signified and the signifier. [concept and sound image] It’s only a name, to be able to tell this thing from another thing…and this is the only reason that this thing is significant.
      2. Signifier: Symbol and this symbol has a natural bond with its signified which is its concept. For example, the concept of Justice is associated with a pair of scales and nothing else can replace that symbol. (Ritcher 843)

i.      The choice of the SYMBOL or signifier is not left entirely to the speaker it is unmotivated which means there is no actual connection with the signified or the concept. The signifier cannot be changed based on personal opinions one it has become established in a linguistic community (Ritcher 844)

  1. Value (Ritcher 845-846)
    1. Value is drawn by the Signified (Concept) and its Signifier (Symbol)
    2. Value versus Signification

i.      The Value of each term results solely from the simultaneous presence of other terms. In order to determine value you must know two things:

  1. What dissimilar thing can be exchanged for what you are trying to determine the value of
  2. What similar thing can be compared with the thing you are trying to determine the value of
    1. Understanding its opposition
    2. If words stood for pre-existing concepts they would all have exact equivalents in meaning from one language to the next.

ii.      Signification is the counterpart of the sound image (845)

  1. Conclusion: In language there are only differences, Language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences issued from the system. (Ritcher 848)
Analysis of the Story of an our using The Nature of the Linguistic Sign.

In order to analyze “The Story of an Hour”, I will list below the different signs [Words] that are used within, note their Signifiers (Symbols) and it’s Signified (Concept). I will also determine their value in comparison and in exchange with similar and dissimilar things. And then note the differences between all of them and what makes these signs, signifiers, and their signified “The Story of an Hour”.

  1. Death [Appears a lot in the text]
    1. Sign: Death
    2. Signifier (Symbol): Skull and Crossbones
    3. Signified (Concept): Leaving life.

i.      The Value of Death

  1. Life can be exchanged for death [Life is a dissimilar thing]
  2. Sleep a similar thing that can be compared with
  3. Death is worth just as much as life and is just as significant as significant sleep.

 

 

Distance [Paragraph 5]

  1. Sign: Distance
  2. Signifier (Symbol): Open Space, Ruler
  3. Signified (Concept): That there is something that is separating point A from point B.

i.      The Value of Distance

  1. Area [Dissimilar] can be exchanged for distance. Meaning instead of thinking in terms of distance you can think in terms of area, the surface included in a set of lines [lines draw distance].
  2. Time can be compared with distance because they are similar.
  3. Distance is worth just as much as area and is as significant as time.

 

 

 

Possess [Paragraph 10]

  1. Sign: Possess
  2. Signifier (Symbol): Hands
  3. Signified (Concept): The concept of possessing gives value to who you are as a person in society.

i.      The Value of Possessing

  1. Losing can be exchanged for possessing. Losing is something dissimilar.
  2. Gaining can be compared with possessing because they are similar.
  3. Possessing is worth just as much losing and is just as significant as gaining.

 

 

 

Will [Paragraph 10 and 11]

  1. Sign: Will
  2. Signifier (Symbol): Closed First
  3. Signified (Concept): The concept of will is that it’s something that everyone has and is essential to making decisions.

i.      Value of Will

  1. Bondage can be exchanged for will because it’s something that is dissimilar
  2. Choice (Willingness) can be compared with will because they are similar
  3. So will is worth just as much as bondage and just as significant as choice.

 

 

 

Freedom

  1. Sign: Freedom
  2. Signifier (Symbol): Broken Chains
  3. Signified (Concept): The concept of freedom is that it is the ability for one to make their own decisions without constriction or constraint from anyone or anything else, even society.

i.      Value of Freedom

  1. Subjection can be exchanged for freedom.
  2. Independence can be compared to freedom
  3. Freedom is worth as much as subjection and just as significant as independence.

And then note at the end the differences between all of them and what makes these signs, signifiers, and their signified’s “The Story of an Hour”.

  1. Death
  2. Distance
  3. Possess
  4. Will
  5. Fredom

These five words work together in a dependent interrelationship. Ritcher Saussure defines the sign, signified, and the signifier as the following: “There is a sign which is the WORD, the signified which is the concept, and the signifier which is the sound image. By using these three words to pull apart and make sense of language ambiguity disappears (842).” So by analyzing the diction of “The Story of an Hour” using the Saussure Linguistic method I have shown that throughout the story words have their own specific meaning that contribute to the overall theme of the story that are not dependent upon the perception of the reader but upon the rules of the  linguistic community (Ritcher 844).

 

New Critic Analysis – Below I have an essay that covers the first five steps of the new Critic method which are:

Step 1: Examining the text’s diction, denotation, connotations, and etymological roots

  1. Within the body paragraphs, I talk about the diction, connotation, and denotation, and etc. of several important and significant words within the paragraph.

Step 2: Examine all allusions

  1. This isn’t in the essay but an allusion that is present within “The Story of an Hour” is found in the word “possess” which refers to the supernatural or witch craft.

Step 3: Analyze all images, symbols, and figures of speech within the text. And note any relationships among these elements

  1. With this essay, I focus on the symbols of “the body” and “the soul” and what they represent due to the syntax and diction of the paragraph.

Step 4: Examine and analyze the various structural patterns that appear within the text (rhyme, rhythm, meter, syntax, phrases, clauses, or sentences)

  1. I examine diction and syntax as well as tone. I do focus on specific sentences also that create a structural pattern resulting in tone.

Step 5: Consider such elements as tone, theme, point of view, and any other elements such as dialogue, foreshadowing, narration, parody, setting, and so forth to directly relate to the texts dramatic situation.

  1. The tone is something that is extremely important to the dramatic situation of the short story. Since Mrs. Mallard is reacting to death, it is only right that she shows changes in her emotional state which alters the tone of the text. For example, at the beginning of the tenth paragraph, Mrs. Mallard is fighting back her much anticipated freedom and this is signaled through syntactic pattern such as “beating back with all her will”(Chopin) which created the tone of fear and uncertainty. By the end of the paragraph, Mrs. Mallard’s blood is “coursing through her veins relaxing every part of her body”(Chopin) signaling a change in her mood from uncertainty to peace. As you can see the tone of the text and the many emotions Mrs. Mallard goes through run parallel to each other as well as her physical reactions (for example, the rising and falling of her chest). “The Story of an Hour” is written through an objective point of view and this enables the reader to observe Mrs. Mallard’s emotions through a lens in which they will not be misconstrued. The theme presented in this story is the desire for freedom, which is exemplified through the change in tone from fear to peace, in addition to the inability to sustain freedom, which is exemplified through the death of Mrs. Mallard at the end of the short story. Mrs. Mallard death is foreshadowed within the first sentence of the short story “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.” (Chopin)

 

Annotated Paragraph: Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with all her will–as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!” The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulse beats fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

How do you like your Literature, Well Done or Medium Rare?

 

My mother, a certified bookworm, often tells me “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it”. I used to disagree with her, proposing every excuse for why what you say is more important than how you say it, but, my mother makes a valid point. When considering literature there are two different points of views that you can use, literal and literary. When literature is looked at literally, we often lose the beauty of how literature is written. For example, how important is a plate of mashed potatoes compared to how the mashed potatoes were made, the seasonings used, and the time and care put into its preparation. The preparation is what the literary meaning offers, the inner makings of the literal meaning. Through the close reading and annotation of a paragraph from Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”, it is evident that she fills her story of an hour with excellent use of diction and syntax to create various changes in tone, which ultimately creates and illustrates the connection between body and soul.

 

“Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously”. Chopin’s decision to use the words “rose”, “fell”, and “tumultuously” set the emotional and alarming tone for the coming sentences. “Rose” and “fell” are antonyms and create for the reader a distressing pull between “night and day”. The choice to use the word “tumultuously” was strategic because it describes not only the physical actions but the emotional actions and shows that Mrs. Mallard’s feelings and physical actions are parallel to one another. Chopin’s choice to use tumultuously makes a world of a difference because it establishes the constant connection between Mrs. Mallard’s physical reactions (body) to her emotional states (soul).

 

“She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with all her will—as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been”. The use of the word “thing” creates a tone of uncertainty and mystery, regarding what was approaching Mrs. Mallard. Following the word thing is “possess” which gives a supernatural quality to what was approaching Mrs. Mallard and creates in the text a mystical tone. The action of Mrs. Mallard “beating back…with all her will” illustrates that Mrs. Mallard felt guilty and not in control of what was approaching her. “Will” is also a key word here which shows that Mrs. Mallard was fighting with all of her strength of her own character towards something with a supernatural quality. Her “will” had more strength than her “powerless white slender hands” but still was not enough to defeat the supernatural entity approaching her.

 

“When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: “free, free, free!””. The word “abandoned” signals that Mrs. Mallard has handed herself over to the supernatural despite her will power, mentioned in the previous sentence. Chopin uses the word “little” after “abandoned” and before “whispered”; by doing this, a looming hesitant tone takes hold of the text. The choice to use the word “whispered” after “abandoned” is significant also, causing the text to take a change in tone from distress to a sense of peace or discarded distress. The physical action of Mrs. Mallard slightly parting her lips illustrates a slow release of tension within her body and emotions. The repetition of the word “free” “under her breath” identifies and solidifies the identity of the supernatural thing attempting to possess her while showing that Mrs. Mallard was still very hesitant of what was approaching her, freedom.

 

The distressed and uncertain tone ceases once Chopin writes “The vacant stare and look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes.” This last change in tone is signaled by the word “vacant” which shows that anything that troubled her before completely left her eyes which is a metonym for her body and symbol for her soul. Freedom caused her body to rise, fall, fight, and become abandoned while it caused her soul to follow the tones of distress, fear, mysticism, uncertainty, and peace. “Her pulse beats fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body”. In this final sentence, the tone of peace and relaxation is solidified through the uses of the words warmed and relaxed.

 

Kate Chopin effortlessly uses diction and syntax to alter the tone of the poem. By doing so she enforces the powerful connection of Mrs. Mallard’s body and soul. The literary meaning is created through diction, syntax, and tone, and all of these ingredients work together to fill the story of an hour with emotional and exciting flavor. If any of these ingredients were subtracted the connection between body and soul in Story of an Hour would cease to exist.

 

Step 6: Look for interrelationships of all the elements in steps 1-5 noting where tensions or ambiguities arise.

The overriding tension in the story is the parallel between the change in tone in the text and in Mrs. Mallard’s physical and mental state. The tensions in the text work against themselves. (Tone, Parallelism, Narration) The tone of the text and Mrs. Mallard emotions run parallel to each other yet the story is told by an neutral narrator so one question that arises is : “are we being told the true colors of Mrs. Mallards emotions?”.

Step 7: After carefully examining all of the above state the poems chief tension and explain how the poem achieves its dominant effect by resolving this tension. [Theme]

  1. The story’s chief tension is how life and death ultimately effects Mrs. Mallard’s emotions concerning freedom and lead to her ultimate death.
  2. The poem resolves this tension by providing the overall theme of “The Story of an Hour” which is “The desire to obtain freedom but the inability to sustain it due to the tonal effects of life and death”.

For further clarification you can watch the following presentation below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGRnhgZZ2vg

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