This essay closely examines Kate Chopin’s famous short story “The Story of an Hour” by decoding the puzzles of the language labyrinth set in it. Many readers are greatly surprised by the unexpected changes and sudden turns of the story, and astonishingly puzzled by its ironic ending. Reading this masterly skillful story, one usually feels trapped in a puzzling labyrinth, but a careful reader may be able to find the passwords and secret passes to go through the labyrinth set in intriguing codes of language. By manipulating diction, grammatical structures and conventions, Chopin subtly builds up a language labyrinth that symbolically underscores the incompatibility between the internal world of Louise Mallard and the external world of the patriarchal society, and this incompatibility explicitly results from ironic misunderstandings between Louise Mallard and her family members and friends. Chopin’s language labyrinth is also set in the deeper ironies such that the misunderstandings both bring about Louise’s spiritual journey to feminine selfhood at first and doom her short-lived feminine self-assertion at last, thus the incompatibility between the internal world of Louise Mallard and the external world of society inevitably results in the impossibility of the fulfillment of Louise’s spiritual journey to ideal feminine selfhood and freedom in the domineering patriarchal world. Thus Chopin indicates that under the iron-grip by the invisible forces of the patriarchal conventions, no female idealists will be able to survive; therefore, Louise’s spiritual self-assertion is inevitably short-lived and finally doomed. Hence, it will finally dawn on the careful reader: the last beguiling code of the labyrinth is that the death of Louise at the end is not really an unexpected surprise but a tragic inevitability which also suggests a spiritual release.
高雄師大學報=The Journal of National Kaohsiung Normal University 23，頁21-38