Structure has preoccupied me in every project I have undertaken since, and, like Mrs. McKee, I have hammered it at Princeton writing students across four decades of teaching: “You can build a strong, sound, and artful structure. You can build a structure in such a way that it causes people to want to keep turning pages. A compelling structure in nonfiction can have an attracting effect analogous to a story line in fiction.” Et cetera. Et cetera. And so forth, and so on.
It reminded me of Mort Sahl, the political comedian, about whom, six years earlier, I had written my first cover story at Time. The scale was different. It was meant to be only five thousand words and a straightforward biographical sketch, appearing during the Kennedy-Nixon Presidential campaigns, but the five thousand words seemed formidable to me then. With only a few days to listen to recordings, make notes, digest files from Time correspondents, read morgue clippings, and skim through several books, I was soon sprawled on the floor at home, surrounded by drifts of undifferentiated paper, and near tears in a catatonic swivet. As hour followed hour toward an absolute writing deadline (a condition I’ve never had to deal with in fifty years at The New Yorker), I was able to produce only one sentence: “The citizen has certain misgivings.” So did this citizen, and from all the material piled around me I could not imagine what scribbled note to take up next or—if I figured that out—where in the mess the note might be.
While her actions may seem questionable or even to be condemned, they are hardly unthinkable in light of the issues involving marriage and the woman's role throughout history.
Out the back door and under the big ash was a picnic table. At the end of summer, 1966, I lay down on it for nearly two weeks, staring up into branches and leaves, fighting fear and panic, because I had no idea where or how to begin a piece of writing for The New Yorker. I went inside for lunch, surely, and at night, of course, but otherwise remained flat on my back on the table. The subject was the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. I had spent about eight months driving down from Princeton day after day, or taking a sleeping bag and a small tent. I had done all the research I was going to do—had interviewed woodlanders, fire watchers, forest rangers, botanists, cranberry growers, blueberry pickers, keepers of a general store. I had read all the books I was going to read, and scientific papers, and a doctoral dissertation. I had assembled enough material to fill a silo, and now I had no idea what to do with it. The piece would ultimately consist of some five thousand sentences, but for those two weeks I couldn’t write even one. If I was blocked by fear, I was also stymied by inexperience. I had never tried to put so many different components—characters, description, dialogue, narrative, set pieces, humor, history, science, and so forth—into a single package.
“Travels in Georgia” (1973) described an episodic journey of eleven hundred miles in the state, and the story would work best, I thought, if I started not on Day 1 but with a later scene involving a policeman and a snapping turtle (Fig. 3).
Similarly, in “The Story of an Hour” Chopin depicts a society that oppresses women mostly through the institution of marriage, as women are expected to remain submissive regardless of whether they derive any happiness....
Showing in class the structural diagrams of “Travels in Georgia,” I used to recite, more or less, “It’s the story of a journey, and hence it represents a form of chronological structure, following that journey as it was made through space and time. There are structural alternatives, but for the story of a journey they can be unpromising and confusing when compared with a structure that is chronologically controlled.” Et cetera. Et cetera, in an annual mantra about what I thought to be axiomatic: journeys demand chronological structures. That was before 2002, when I went from a truck stop in Georgia to a product delivery elsewhere in Georgia to an interior wash in South Carolina to a hazmat manufacturer in North Carolina and on across the country to the state of Washington in a sixty-five-foot chemical tanker owned and driven by a guy named Don Ainsworth.
Think about it. Think how it appeared to the writer when it was still a mass of notes. The story goes from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States. Has any other writer ever done that? Has any other writer ever not done that? Even I had done something like it in discussing North American geology in “Annals of the Former World.” You don’t need to remember much past Meriwether Lewis, George R. Stewart, John Steinbeck, Bernard DeVoto, Wallace Stegner, and William Least Heat-Moon in order to discern a beaten path. If you are starting a westbound piece in, say, Savannah, can you get past Biloxi without caffeinating the prose? If Baltimore—who is going to care if you get through Cumberland Gap? New York? The Hackensack River. If you start in Boston, turn around. In a structural sense, I turned around—once again reversing a prejudice. In telling this story, the chronology of the trip would not only be awkward but would also be a liability.
Modern media has joined in on using its ability to reach a vast majority of people to show the Oppression of a second class citizen as shown in Kate Chopin’s “A Story of an Hour”.
The conflict allows us to follow the emotions and unfold the irony of the situation in “The Story of an Hour.” The story begins with the passage; “Knowing that Mrs....
Even though the story is written with the limit of third person point of view, it does not lack the structure of dramatic irony to keep the reader wanting more.
During this analysis of “The Story of an Hour” we will discuss the summary, plot, setting, tone, theme, point of view, emotions of Louise Mallard and other characters involved in the story.