Jessica Danielle Powell's English 170W Blog
The Long Development of a Short Story.
And then the Symbol’s, Motif’s, and Themes of “The Story of an Hour”
Posted on December 7th, 2011 at 7:33 pm by Jessica Danielle Powell and




Symbol: Latchkey

Where the symbol appears:

  1. Paragraph 19: “Someone was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry; at Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.”

Meaning: According to Merriam Webster dictionary the first known use of a latchkey was in 1825. The latchkey represents the opposite of what it does, instead of opening a door for Mrs. Mallard is represents the closing of the front door of the rest of her life.


Symbol: Windows

Where the symbol appears:

  1. Paragraph’s 4-5: “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 seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.”

Meaning: Windows represent the abundance of opportunities within the freedom that Mrs. Mallard desired so much. Inside the window were new spring life, rain, songs, and the sweet songs of sparrows.

Symbol: Eyes [Windows to the Soul]

1.            Paragraph 8: “But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.”

2.            Paragraph 10: “The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.”

The eyes represent the windows of Mrs. Mallard’s soul also known as her emotions. This is why the stares and looks of terror change so frequently.





  1. Paragraphs 1-2: “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.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband’s friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard’s name leading the list of “killed.”

  1. Paragraph 11: “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death
  2. Paragraph 11: “…The face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead.
  3. Paragraph 20: “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills.”


The desire for freedom from oppression and the inability to achieve or sustain it.

This theme of the desire for freedom is illustrated through the characterization from Mrs. Mallard of Mr. Mallard. By describing her husband as a man who had an empty, loveless, and dead stare within his eyes all the time towards her, emotionless without care is what caused the marriage between them to become oppressive. The fact that her marriage was oppressive caused her to desire freedom. After knowing that her husband had died, she came into contact with freedom for part of an hour until she saw that her husband is alive. Due to the realization that her husband is alive she died of joy that kills or the inability to be able to fully embrace the freedom that she desired.

Oppression and its role in personal stagnation [stunting personal growth]

This is a smaller and broader theme than the one above but this theme is shown in the quick progression of Mrs. Mallard’s emotions after she began to embrace her new found freedom. The personal growth that she endured was the result of the knowledge that her oppressor is no longer able to oppress her.

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