Jessica Danielle Powell's English 170W Blog
The Long Development of a Short Story.
Annotated Paragraph
Posted on October 26th, 2011 at 10:31 am by Jessica Danielle Powell and

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 Literarture, 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 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 then 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 superanatural despite her will power, mentioned in the previous sentence. Chopin uses the word little after abandoned and before whispered and 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 coarsing 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. Mallards 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.

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Comments so far:

Link Here | November 4, 2011,

Hi Jessica,

Great job annotating this paragraph–you really do a good job focusing on both the obvious words as well as the insignificant ones (which you show are in fact significant). I also think you do a great job emphasizing the seeming tensions and contradictions in Chopin’s paragraph; I bet the New Critics would really like this. That’s especially true with the tumultuous “rise and fall,” which reminded me of the “over and over under” phrase a few sentences later, which as you point out is also tumultuous.

I did wonder if you thought that Chopin really achieved what the New Critics called “organic unity.” Is the final sentence just a change in narrative tone, or is there also a change in form too? (remember–the New Critics wanted to see how form and content could be unified.)

  Kevin L. Ferguson |

Link Here | November 17, 2011,

I can agree that it does change the structure of the whole short story after all which is something that almost each paragraph does. It’s the change in structure of Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour that keeps me the most interested. And how the change in structure parallel’s to Mrs. Mallard’s change in emotional state and physicality.

And the content and form are unified through Mrs. Mallards parallel change in emotional state and physicality

Content is to form as Mrs. Mallards emotional state is to her physicality.

It’s all beautifully connected in my opinion.

  Jessica Danielle Powell |

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