With stylistic efficiency, Kate Chopin introduces her central character (Mrs. Louise Mallard) and two crucial plot details (Louise's heart condition, and the very recent death of her husband) in the story's abrupt, attention-grabbing opening sentence-a sentence whose reference to "heart trouble" (352) seems doubly meaningful and ironic by the time the tale concludes. Also ironic is the care taken by Louise's sister Josephine in breaking "as gently as possible" (352) to Louise the news of Mr. Mallard's death; this "great care" (352) not only contrasts with the sudden revelation that will occur at the story's conclusion but also seems full of irony in light of Louise's subsequent reaction to Josephine's news. Josephine is accompanied by Richards, a family friend who will also appear at the story's conclusion, thus adding to the work's symmetrical structure. It was Richards who had first received word that Brently Mallard had been killed in a train wreck, and it was Richards who (ironically) had "hastened" to inform Louise of the accident (352). If he had taken further time to determine the accuracy of the report, the story might have developed very differently than it does, but this is a story that very much concerns life's unpredictability.
Louise responds to the news with intense emotion and shuts herself in her room. As she stares out a window she faces a scene of natural beauty and vitality that seems, at first, merely to contrast with her own bereaved suffering; soon, however, it becomes clear that all the imagery of "spring life" is not simply ironic but also suggests to Louise the possibilities of a new, more vital existence. The complex, ambiguous tone of this section of the story is implied by the mixed imagery of "patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds" (352): Louise's life is momentarily dark, but new options are beginning to dawn. She weeps, but she weeps as a child does (another image suggesting...