Layer 1: What?

Who are the characters?

  • Mrs. Louise Mallard.
    • Louise is the protagonist. She occupies a lot of space and the author uses focalization to center the narrative around her. The POV is omniscient but it tends to focus on one character. This is Louise’s story. The other characters contribute to her development. She is the only character who changes, which is typical in short stories.
    • Louise has heart trouble.
    • Rather than deny, she accepts her husband’s death.
    • She has an inner life.
  • Mr. Brently Mallard, killed in a railroad disaster

  • Josephine, Mrs. Mallard’s sister who revealed Mr. Mallards death
    • Cares genuinely with her sister.
    • Close, talkes in sister code.
  • Richards, Mr. Mallard’s friend who first heard of his friends’s death
    • Has ulterior motives.
    • May be a controlling friend, may want to win Louise affection.
    • Should have gone home after breaking the news, but stays and covers Brently from Louise.

What happens?

  • Mr. Mallard is killed in a railroad accident.
  • Josephine and Richard reveals the news to Mrs. Mallard.
  • Mrs. Mallard weeps.
  • Mrs. Mallard retreats to her room alone.
  • Mrs. Mallard sits on an armchair.
  • The author describes Mrs. Mallard’s surroundings sensually.
  • Something approaches her from the sky.
  • The things tries to posess her.
  • She feels free.
  • She sees the years to come by herself.
  • She feels freed from marriage, which seems to have been cruel to her.
  • She doesn’t really love her (And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not.)
  • Josephine tries to go in, feeling that Louise is hurting herself.
  • Louise continues to think about her future. He prays to have a long life.
  • Louise opens the door with a look of victory, and goes down with her sister.
  • Brently Mallard enters the home alive.
  • Josephine cried.
  • Louise dies of heart attack.
  • Richards covers Brently from the view of his wife.

When does the story take place?

  • After Mr. Mallard is killed.

Where does the story take place?

  • At Mrs. Mallard’s house.

What is the story structure?

  • Act One is nonexistent. No status quo.
  • Act Two. Louise’s reaction leads to this act. We learn of the Mallard’s marriage through memories.
  • The punch line came abruptly with no description. We just infer that she died through one line.

Layer 2: Why?

Why does the author tell this story? What is the deeper meaning? Is the author trying to convince us of something? If so, what is it?

  • Comments on the role of women in society.
  • Expresses disapproval of women’s marginalization.
  • Doctors and relatives thought Louise died of joy from seeing her husband but because the author gave us access to her thoughts, we know that this was caused by grief of seeing her husband.

Layer 3: How?

Kate Chopin places her character alone in a room for the bulk of the story, and it works. How did she do it?

  • Major things happened but they are only implied by the story through exposition.
    • We don’t see the train accident or aftermath.
    • Richards confiming Brently’s death is hidden.
    • Josephine’s dialogue revealing Brently’s death is also hidden.
    • Louise’s death happened offstage.
  • Chopin does this to highlight Louise’s transformation. She doesn’t have to detail the other parts of the stories. Highlight only Louise’s transformation. This reminds me of creating hierarchy in design which also applies in photography. In short works like this, this is also applied.
  • The ending is intentionally absurd so that we are left wondering what the cause of death is.

Does the story elicit some sort of response from you? What is that response, and more important, how does the author make you feel that way? What specific words or phrases spark those particular emotions?


  • The author reveals the first names of the characters a while alter after she introduces them. This happened to Brently Mallard first then Louise Mallard


Pereira, G. (2016). DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community. Writer’s Digest Books.