The Story of an Hour via Kate Chopin and Small Homicide by Ed McBain are short stories of the nineteenth and 20th century respectively that focus on different ideas. However, each storylines are arched on some common themes. The Story of an Hour is about a woman in her thoughts after the information of her husband who has perished in an accident are broken unto her. Small Homicide, on the other hand, is a crime fiction of police procedural investigation of an infant homicide case. Both writers employ a variety of styles with the former revolving round a feminist perspective while the latter is a tale of crime fiction. It is vital that the two stories have an underlying sense of the meaning of love, self-fulfillment and a possession of self-assertion.
Key themes such as loneliness and human sorrow that motivates inner violence or external crime are shared in the stories. In The Story of an Hour, uncertainty thoughts fill Louise Mallard’s mind. But one thing she is sure about is that she will be free from someone else influencing her decisions and choices (Chopin 2). This reveals that she will enjoy being alone. She refers to it as a monstrous joy that may or may not come as well. To her, that freedom is a self-fulfillment of selfhood in itself. Similarly, in Small Homicide, the assailant, Mrs. Alice Dreiser is hurting emotionally after her husband; Carl died (McBain 511). She was crying inside that the constant cry of her eight months old daughter was worsening the sorrow. Apparently to her, strangling her would eliminate her troubles. She would be free again to mourn the death of her beloved husband peacefully. In the two stories, it is evident that human sorrow leads to thoughts of one trying to free himself from the current situation. That causes an internal violence. For the case of Mrs. Dreiser, her grief resulted in her eliminating life in her daughter whom she thought was worsening her sorrows. Therefore, being alone would heal her. According to the two writers, seemingly loneliness provides a healing session for the hurting. For instance, it is also the way of life for Alice Dreiser’s father, Grant. Since his wife died, he lives alone and bothers not about the whereabouts of her daughter (McBain 510).
Regarding cruelty and criminality, both stories have their take. As much as Brently Mallard loved his wife, she still felt that he was cruel in the way he controlled and influenced her decisions in life. Whether the husband did it with a right or evil intention, to her, it was infringement thus a crime. She states, “…that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind or a cruel intention make the act seem no less a crime…” (Chopin 2). That could be one of the reasons she didn’t love her husband as such. In Small Homicide, the level of cruelty acted upon the toddler is saddening. Children always cry, especially at night. In some instances, it is excruciatingly annoying to household inhabitants. But, the mother-child love overrides the loud and troubling cries. For Mrs. Dreiser, she couldn’t take it anymore. The loss of her loved ones in her life, that is, the mother and the husband were trouble enough to deal with. Someone else would think otherwise; the presence of the baby would take away her sorrows only if she would have allowed her daughter time to grow a little. At least she would have someone to console her. But, she decides to commit the crime of taking away the life of the innocent child. Perhaps, the death of the kid too will give her some freedom and selfhood. She would rather be alone. In fact, contrary to the norm that other mothers are always concerned to call the police in case of their children going missing, this was a different case. No one was calling in looking for a missing child.
A distinct difference in the two stories is that the cruelty and criminality in The Story of an Hour are just perceptions while in Small Homicide, it is real. An action is executed. The level of cruelty is huge. Until one of the detectors, Pat, swears that if the murderer is caught, he will shoot him himself. If not, then his body parts should be chopped off (McBain 502-503). Most likely he meant his head or his private parts as he does not complete the sentence.
Although no police investigation is mentioned in The Story of an Hour, they may have been involved in confirming the deaths of the train accident in which Brently Mallard was declared among those dead. In Small Homicide, the story is about struggles of police procedurally investigating the murder of the eight months old girl. Throughout the plot, they come up with scant evidence on who the offender could be. The process involves tedious findings, for instance, investigating pew prints, the baby’s clothes and sending footprints to every hospital in the state (McBain 502, 506). That is quite tiresome. They also make speculations along the process luckily; they catch up with the suspect. Contrary to Chopin’s story where the police may not have given the accurate report on those who had perished, Ed McBain’s short story ends with the suspect being caught up. As a matter of fact, Mr. Mallard who was pronounced dead in the newspapers was actually alive.
Justice is served when Alice Dreiser lands in the hands of the police. At least, the innocent toddler will receive justice although dead. She admits she killed her daughter but for unthinkable reasons. In The Story of an Hour, there is no mention of justice as the illusions of Louise freeing her soul and body remain just thoughts when she dies of a heart attack. Additionally, her husband wasn’t dead yet. Were she to be alive, she would still have to submit to her husband as long as they were still married.
Inequality features throughout Small Homicide. The male gender dominates the police force. The skipper, lieutenants and the doctor are all men. Ladies are only involved in the investigation by being asked questions. Also, the villain happens to be a woman. In The Story of an Hour, equality is achieved by characters balancing out. There are two males; Mallard and his friend Richards and two ladies; Louise and her sister Josephine. In fact, in Small Homicide, men are talked about largely in the sense that even in the investigations, the lieutenants thought the murderer is most likely a man (McBain 502). Significantly, the common focus on the two stories is two women who bring out the role of women at the time. They are portrayed as people who wished life to be smooth as they thought, but circumstances kept them in emotional jail. That was their state. They, therefore, yearned for freedom from such inner sorrows and cries.
The possession of self-assertion as Chopin would call it, leads to Louise and Alice making mistakes. Louise’ deep thoughts coupled with grief or maybe the shock of seeing her husband ghost yet real lead her to succumb to a heart attack. Similarly, Mrs. Dreiser’s internal sorrow of losing her beloved husband quickens her temper in reaction to a crying toddler. She strangles her to death. Now, she will rot in jail, and Louise Mallard will rot six feet beneath the soils.
Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. New York: Vogue, 1894.
McBain, Ed. Small Homicide. Waterville: Thorndike Press, 1953.