The Story Of An Hour by Kate Chopin, 1894
The magic trick:
Using a “twist” ending to make a point – not just for dramatic effect
The matter of a “twist” ending can be suspect when it comes to earning whatever passes for artistic merit. Sure, it’s shocking to turn a story on its head in the final paragraph; to drop the viewers jaw in the final minute of a movie. But it also reeks of gimmick, while rendering repeat readings/viewings unnecessary (you can only be shocked once).
Personally? I like ’em. I think it’s pretty cool. No, I haven’t watched The Sixth Sense a second time, but that’s because I think it’s a pretty stupid movie. The ending was the one part that was interesting. Do I read O. Henry stories over and over even though I know the super-contrived “twist” ending is coming from a mile away? Yes, actually. I like them. I know some people can’t stomach that kind of thing, but that’s just not where I’m coming from.
In the case of “The Story Of An Hour,” every reader wins, whether fan or hater of the “twist” ending. Chopin uses a major twist, for sure. Without spoiling anything, we can at least say the story reverses course quite dramatically at the end. So the shock seekers will enjoy that. But the more literary-minded among us also have plenty to analyze because the twist allows Chopin to make a serious feminist point about woman’s role in marriage during the late 19th century.
Consider this the feminist O. Henry story. And that’s quite a trick on Chopin’s part.
There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.