ACTIVITY: Summarizing a plot in one or two sentences Working in pairs, try to summarize "The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8) in one or two sentences. Then
share your summaries with another pair of students or within a larger group. Discuss the difficulty or ease
with which you were able to complete this task. If you were unable to summarize the story in one or two sen-
tences, explain why.
Setting Set t i ng refers to the place, time, social environment, and physical environment of a story.
Place The setting may include details that indicate the geographical location of the story, such as the country
or city in which the story takes place, or they may reveal whether the story takes place in a large city or a
small village. The details may show whether the story takes place indoors or outdoors, or both.
Time The length of time during which the action occurs is a feature of u setting; this may span several years
or months or only an hour. Details the setting may reveal the time of day, not only through actual clock time,
but also through descriptions of light, darkness, and shadows. Details of the setting may reveal time of year,
through references to the seasons. The period of history in which the action occurs may also be revealed.
S OCIAL ENVIRONMENT Not all stories include references to social environment, but when they do, such references may in-
clude details about the manners, customs, rules, and moral codes of a society. Details may also reveal so-
cioeconomic status or class level.
P HYSICAL ENVIRONMENT Details of the setting reveal the physical environment in which the story takes place. Such concrete de-
tails may include references to or descriptions of objects, clothing, nature, buildings, rooms, weather, sounds,
smells, and so on. These physical details often indicate the emotional state of the characters or the relation-
ship between characters.
ACTIVITY: Creat i ng and anal yzi n g a set t i ng ___ Describe a room in your home such as the kitchen or your own bedroom. Include as many concrete de-
tails as you can recall. Then analyze those details to discover what they may reflect about you, your family,
or your society.
ACTIVITY: Exam i ni ng t he set t i ng o f a st ory ___ Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to these questions about Kate Cho-
pin's "The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-S): Where does the story take place? When? How long does it take for
the action to occur? Which details reveal the society's manners, customs, rules, moral codes, and/or the so-
cioeconomic level of the characters? Which concrete details reveal a character's emotional state and/or the
relationship between the characters?
Charact er Characters are the people in stories, or animals or objects that have human traits in stories. The term
character refers to people's outward appearance and behavior and also to their inner emotional, intellectual,
and moral qualities.
Writers of fiction rarely, if ever, directly tell readers what a character is like. Instead, writers suggest
what a character is like, relying on indirect methods of characterization. These indirect methods, summarized
below, require readers to interpret clues in order to identify character traits and thus understand motivation
for or causes of behavior. Bу piecing togetherthese clues, readers can form a picture of the whole character.
O UTER AND INNER CHARACTERISTICS Character is revealed in a story by how a person is described; by what a person does, says, and thinks;
by what others in the story say and think about the person; and by how others in the story react to the per-
son. Character is also revealed by the choices the person makes and the changes the person undergoes.
C ENTRAL AND MINOR CHARACTERS Most stories have at least one central character (also called main or major character, hero/heroine, or
protagonist), the person around whom the story revolves. Many stories also have at least one minor charac-
ter, who is not the focus of the story but who still plays an important role. Sometimes characters provide con-
trasts with one another.
Suggesting a character Working in pairs or in a small group, make a list of words or phrases that suggest a character.
A Fifty-Year-Old Man Outer appearance
1. graying hair
1. works twelve hours a day
An Eighteen-Year-Old Male College Student Outer appearance Inner qualities
1. 1. 2. 2. 3. 3. 4. 4. 5. 5. A Character of Your Choice Outer appearance Inner qualities 1. 1. 2. 2. 3.
ACTIVITY: Creating a setting for a character_ Create a setting for one or more of the following characters. The setting may be a room, a building, an
outdoor scene, and so on. The description of the setting should reveal who the person is.
a college freshman
a famous actress
a Chemistry professor
a fiction writer
a three-year-old boy
a wealthy industrialist
ACTIVITY: Analyzing character Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to the following questions about
Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8): Who is the central character? What is significant about how
the central character is described? Who are the minor characters? What is significant about how they react to
the central character? What are the central character's significant actions? What are the central character's in-
ner thoughts and feelings? What choices does the central character have? What changes does the central cha-
racter undergo? How do those choices and changes help you understand the story?
ACTIVITY: Analyzing character through a word__ Read the following paragraph from "The Story of an Hour":
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 pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed
every inch of her body (7).
1. Look up the definitions of the word keen in the Glossary.
2. Apply the definitions to the story. What different insight into the character does each definition provide?
3. Discuss which definition is most appropriate. Allow for different interpretations.
Point o f view Point of view is a literary term that refers to the perspective from which a story i s told. The author
creates a narrator to tell the story. It is through the narrator's perspective (
THOUGHTS THE NARRATOR
EYES AND MIND
THAT READERS LEARN WHAT IS happening in a story.
T HE NARRATOR WHO IS A CHARACTER IN THE STORY
The narrator may be one of t he charact er s in the story. If so, the story is told from a first-person
perspective, and the character-narrator may use the pronoun "I."
If the story looks back on the narrator's own childhood, there may be a double(or dual) point of view:the perspective of the child andthe perspective of the adult narrator.
T HE NARRATOR WHO IS NOT A CHARACTER IN THE STORY The narrator may not be one of the characters in the story or may not participate in the events of the
story. If so, the story is told primarily from a third-person perspective.
Such a narrator may know almost everything about one character or every character, including inner
thoughts. Or the narrator may know everything about one or more of the character(s) exceptinner thoughts.
The narrator may comment on the actions and thoughts, or the narrator may just describe them objectively.
T HE NARRATOR WHO IS UNRELIABLE It is easy to be fooled into thinking that the narrator is the author. But it is important to remember that
the narratoris a device and point of viewis a technique that an author uses to influence the way a reader
perceives what is happening in the story. An easy way to remember that the narrator is not the author is to
think of a story in which the narrator and author are of opposite gender. For example, in "Six Feet of the
Country" by Nadine Gordimer (pp. 116-25), the author is a woman but the narrator is a man.
Furthermore, the narrator does not necessarily hold or reflect the author's view. What the narrator says
may reveal what is true, but the narrator may not be reliable. Even if the narrator knows almost everything
about every character, the narrator is still limited in some way (since all human beings are limited in some
way). It is only by piecing together several or all of the elements of fiction that you can move toward an un-
derstanding of the author's view.
ACTIVITY: Relating a st ory f rom a chi l d' s perspect i ve Recall a childhood fear or other early memory. Using the present tense, relate the memory in the first
person (using the pronoun "I") but use only words and perceptions appropriate to a very young child. Try to
select a memory of something that happened during a brief period of time (for example, an hour or a sum-
mer) and in one place. Don‘t analyze what happened, just tell your story. Then exchange stories with another
student, and analyze each other's experiences.
ACTIVITY: Relating a story from two perspectives_ Choose one of the following activities:
1. Relate the childhood memory that you recalled in the previous activity, only this time use your
present perspective. In other words, tell the story from the point of view of who you are today. Using the past
tense, relate the story in the first person and retain the same details, but add your mature insight into or un-
derstanding of the event.
2. Tell two separate versions of the same event (such as your graduation from high school, your first
day of college, your first college party).
• First relate the event in the first person, using "I."
• Then relate the same event in the third person, referring to yourself as "he" or "she."
Discuss with your classmates the similarities and differences between using different points of view.
ACTIVITY: Determining point o f view in a story_ Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to the following questions about
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8): Who is telling the story? Is this narrator a character in the story? What
does the narrator know about the (other) characters? Why do you think the author has chosen this point of
view? How would the story be different if it were told from another point of view?
Im agery Imagery refers to the collection of images in a work of fiction: the mental pictures created by the au-
thor's words. These words often carry suggestive meaning in addition to their literal (primary, factual) mean-
ing; writers use concrete images to go beyond physical description in order to express feelings and states of
mind. Most images are created through words that appeal to readers' senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and
touch. For example, a pink flower may appeal to a reader's sense of sight or smell and bring forth pleasant
associations with springtime or a holiday memory.
ACTIVITY: Creating images Using details related to the senses of sight, sound, smell, sound, taste, or touch, as appropriate, create
images of the following:
something with a sweet taste
something that smells bad
ACTIVITY: Maki ng associ at i ons _ What do you think of or remember when you read these words and phrases?
a bath filling with warm water
people linked arm-in-arm
a diamond necklace
ACTIVITY: Ident i f yi ng i m ages i n a st ory Working in a small group or with the whole class, make note of some of the images in Kate Chopin's
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8). For example, you can make separate lists of words that relate to the senses
(sight, sound, taste, smell, touch). Then discuss answers to the following questions. Does one type of image
predominate? If so, is this sensory image connected to any feelings or states of mind? If there is a mixture of
images, with no one sense predominating, how does this mixture contribute to your understanding of the story?
Sym bol i sm A symbol is something that represents something else. Often in a literary work, a symbol is an image
of an event or a physical object (a thing, person, or place) that is used to represent something invisible or ab-
stract such as an idea, a value, or an emotion. Authors use symbols to suggest meaning. One symbol may
suggest more than one meaning.
The setting can be a major source of symbols. Trees and grain growing near a river, for example, may
suggest life or fertility. Areas without any growth may suggest decay or death. A fancy house may suggest
wealth; a tiny village may suggest poverty. The sound of dance music may suggest joy; the sound of beating
drums may signal fear. Light may suggest knowledge; darkness may suggest ignorance. The possibilities are
Although there are numerous possibilities, not all objects or events in stories are symbols. Some ob-
jects or events are just what they are described or defined to be and have no second or third meaning.
L ITERAL MEANING To determine whether an object is a symbol of something else, begin with the literal(factual, dictio-
nary) meaning of the object.
U NIVERSAL MEANING After you have determined the literal meaning, ask if the object has some universalsymbolism. For ex-
ample, rain after аlongperiod of drought can symbolize rebirth or renewal or regeneration in many parts of
C ULTURAL MEANING If you do not recognize universal symbolism, ask if the object has some cultural symbolism. For ex-
ample, a certain style of dress may represent a particular social class in a particular culture.
C ONTEXTUAL MEANING If you do not discover cultural symbolism, ask yourself if the object has some unique meaning within
the context of the story itself. For example, a flashing light may represent a character's sudden understanding
If you do not discover any second meaning, you may assume that the object is not necessarily a sym-
bol o f anything.
ACTIVITY: Creating a symbol___ Create a scene in which a character learns some wonderful news. Then have the character look out the
window and see something—an object, a person, an action—that is upsetting or disturbing. Assume that the
upsetting thing acts as a symbol. What could be your hidden purpose in including this thing in your scene?
ACTIVITY: Discovering symbols in a story Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to the following questions about
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8): Does the author use any objects or events that might represent something
invisible or abstract? If so, what are those symbols? What meanings might they suggest? Allow for differ-
ences of opinion.
Tone Tone is a literary term that refers to the author's attitude or stance toward the action, characters, narra-
tor, subject, and even readers o f the story. Tone is conveyed through the language the author uses. Writers
of fiction choose every word carefully to create effect or to convey meaning.
A TTITUDE TOWARD ACTIONS OR EVENTS To understand tone is to understand the author's attitude toward the action or events: whether a story is
humorous or tragic or frightening. The author may want you to laugh or cry, to feel happy or sad, to expe-
rience, anger or fear.
A TTITUDE TOWARD CHARACTERS OR NARRATOR To understand tone is to understand the author's attitude toward the characters or the narrator; the au-
thor may or may not like or trust them. For example, the author may be sympathetic toward, admiring or,
hostile toward, critical of, or sentimental about one or more of the characters or the narrator.
A TTITUDE TOWARD SUBJECT MATTER To understand tone is tounderstand the author's attitude toward the subject matter of the story: how
an author feels about an idea or concept. For example, the author may be sarcastic about, indifferent to, bitter
about, curious about, thrilled by, critical of, outraged about, shocked by, frightened about, scornful of, senti-
mental about, or sad about a subject such as love, death, marriage, family, government, social class, money,
religion, or war.
ACTIVITY: Establishing tone Briefly describe a person (real or imaginary) whom you don't like at all or who frightens you. Without
stating that you don't like or are frightened by the person, use concrete language that conveys your attitude.
You may focus on the personal's physical appearance, emotional state, and/or actions.
ACTIVITY: Determining the tone o f a story_ Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to the following questions about
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8). Allow for differences of opinion about all of these questions. Is this a hap-
py or a sad story? How does this story make you feel? What is the author's attitude toward the main charac-
ter? The minor characters? How are these attitudes conveyed (which words or groups of words suggest the
author's stance)? What ideas or concepts are revealed in the story? What is the author's attitude toward those
ideas or concepts? How is that attitude conveyed?
Irony Irony refers to the unexpected incongruity between appearance and truth or between expectation and
reality. Irony is apparent when an author uses language to create a deliberate contrast between appearance
(what seems to be true) and truth (what is true), or between expectation (what was expected or hoped for)
and reality (what actually happens). Often readers know or understand something that a character does not.
Ironic situations Irony emerges from situations, for example when what happens is different from what the characters
or readers hope for or expect (for example when a character expects that a certain action will result in victory
when in fact that action results in defeat).
I RONIC THOUGHTS Irony emerges from thoughts, for example when a character thinks or believes something that is ac-
tually different from the truth (for example, when Character A believes that Character В is a good person,
but the truth is that Character В is evil; so that Character A's trust in Character В results in disaster).
I RONIC SPEECH Irony emerges from spoken words, for example when a character says something that, cither intention-
ally or unintentionally, means the opposite of what it seems to say (for example, when Character A says to
Character B, "I understand you now" and Character В interprets that to mean, "I believe you, I trust you" and
acts accordingly; but Character A really means, " I understand now that you are a deceitful person and I don't
trust you anymore).
ACTIVITY: Creat i ng an i roni c si t uat i on Describe a situation (real or imaginary) in which you or someone else expected or hoped to achieve
something through a certain action but felt disappointed or surprised when the action resulted in the opposite
of the goal.
ACTIVITY: Uncoveri ng i rony i n a st ory _ Working in a small group or with the whole class, discuss answers to the following questions about
"The Story of an Hour" (pp. 6-8): Is there irony in the story? Is there incongruity between what the characters
think is true and what is actually true?
• Does irony emerge from a situation? If so, what happens that is unexpected or different from what is
expected or hoped for?
• Does irony emerge from thoughts? If so, what does a character think or believe that is different from
• Does irony emerge from spoken words? If so, what does a character say that, either intentionally or
unintentionally, means the opposite of what it seems to say?
If there is irony, how does irony help you understand the story?
Speech Characters' speechcan indicate the intellectual ability, clarity of thought, educational level, social class,
national origin, personality, and/or emotional-state ofthespeaker. Therefore, an authormay put sophisticated
words or nongrammatical expressions or slang ina character's speech to reveal something about the charac-
There are a number of ways in which authors use characters' speech to communicate meaning.