A Weak Heart

A Weak Heart

Nicole Romano

 My younger sister Louise always had a heart problem since we were young.  I spent most of my childhood looking after her until she found a man of the name Brently Mallard who captured my young Louise’s heart.  They spent many years together and I knew she was in good care, until I found out about his death from his friend Richards. From what Richards told me Brently died in a railroad disaster as he was traveling to work.  I was dumbfounded at the thought that my poor Louise would have to face this burden on her weak heart.  So it was I who made the decision to be the one who would break the news to her.

Richards and I approached the yellow two-toned farm house and knocked on the door, Louise answered in her calm and soft voice “Josephine–Richards! What brings you here at such a time, you both just missed lunch; do come in!” A lump formed in my throat at the thought of having to bring this bad news upon her.  “Louise… there’s something I must tell you… there was a train wreck…” and before I knew it tears were pouring down my cheeks. Richard softly grabbed my shoulder and gave a slight squeeze of reassurance, I looked at Louise and her face turned to a look of confusion at first. “Brently…he…the train…is dead.” My broken sentences finally registered; the look of confusion quickly turned to disbelief as she automatically registered what I was saying.  She covered her mouth to silence her whimper and I rushed to embrace her in my arms.  Shaking her head back and forth and crying out loud “This can’t be true!” I guided her into the sitting room onto the loveseat; tightly embracing her.  We sat there for a while as we both cried in each other’s arms.

When her breathing subsided to a steady pace she turned to me and said “I need to spend some time alone” I hesitated at first on letting her go by herself due to her health, I would much rather have her stay near me—yet I knew that having some time to think would be best in this situation; so I watched her slowly walk up the stairs to her bedroom. I went and settled down again sinking my head between my legs.  I kept replaying the last time I saw Brently which was not too long ago, we were in the yard discussing Louise’s health.  He was telling me how recently the doctor came to check up on Louise and said that her heart condition is becoming weaker.  He told Brently that she can’t handle any more intense moments anymore or her heart won’t be able to handle it.  I was apprehensive after what Brently had told me, yet he reassured me that she will be okay since he will take good care of her. She was blessed with a good husband who truly loved her and for that I was genuinely happy.

I silently cried to myself as Richards walked out into the yard through the kitchen. “Oh, how I wish this wasn’t true” I whispered under my breath.  I heard Louise’s cry come from her bedroom and I raised my head and looked up. I left her alone since it was what she asked yet pained me seeing her go through such a hardship.  After a few minutes I stopped hearing her cries, so I wiped my tears with ease and walked up the stairs to check on Louise.  When I got to her bedroom door I heard her whispering under her breath but I just could not seem to grasp what she was saying.  I put my ear to the door and briefly heard her mumble the word “free” to what seemed like the end of a sentence.  I knew something was wrong so I knocked on the door and pressed my lips to the keyhold begging her to open up, “Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door—you will make yourself ill.  What are you doing, Louise? For heaven’s sake open the door.”  She responded by telling me to go away and that she wasn’t making herself ill.  Yet I had such a bad feeling, all I kept thinking was how she must be making herself over think and cause more stress on her heart, for it hadn’t already went through enough.  I kept knocking until she finally opened the door.

She seemed different when she opened that door, the look in her eyes weren’t ones filled with sorrow but filled with the triumph of waking from a long slumber on a beautiful spring morning.  “Let’s go make some tea” Louise said to me as she clasped my waist, we both descended down the stairs.  Richards was waiting for us looking up at both of us.

I turned and looked past Richards when I noticed someone was opening the front door. I thought to myself “Who could that be?” and in walked Brently Mallard. There wasn’t a scratch on that man; it looked as if he wasn’t even at the scene of the disaster.  My joyful moment turned sour when I turned and looked at Louise grab her heart in astonishment and cascaded down the stairs.  I heard a piercing cry and realized it was my own and quickly ran to her.  Brently was still standing in the front door puzzled at what had just happened in front of him.  I saw Richards immediately went to call the doctors, I kneeled down and cried over the lifeless Louise and I knew that this was the end of my young poor Louise.




Each short story has a unique narration perspective; one example of this is “The Story of An Hour”. The story takes place in the nineteenth-century where the protagonist Mrs. Louise Mallard has a heart condition and loses her husband in a train disaster. This is narrated in a limited third person perspective of Louise in her bedroom. I decided to do my retelling in a different perspective; I chose to narrate in a homodigetic narration of Josephine–Louise’s sister. I felt that from her point of view you would get a different outlook on what is going on outside the bedroom and how she feels about her sister, and her marriage with Brently.

The original story’s limited third-person perspective shows only Louise in her bedroom struggling to accept her new come feelings about the death of her husband “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will—as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under hte breath: ‘free, free, free!’ The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes.” (1) From this quote you can sense how at first Louise did not want to accept the feeling of freedom from being a married woman. She at first felt guilt, but soon realized how she truly felt about her freedom and identity. “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.” (2) Louise than embraces this new feeling of freedom and looks forward to her new future with her husband. The reader than finally understands her true feelings, but unlike Louise, Josephine thought differently in my retelling story.

Not only did I want to show the reader’s a different narrator but I wanted to show Josephine as a caring sister who worries about Louise’s health. Since the original story did not focus of Josephine, I decided to make it from her point of view to show what was going on while Louise was in her bedroom.   In one part of the story you see Josephine being a caring sister when she said “When her breathing subsided to a steady pace she turned to me and said “I need to spend some time alone” I hesitated at first on letting her go by herself due to her health, I would much rather have her stay near me—yet I knew that having some time to think would be best in this situation; so I watched her slowly walk up the stairs to her bedroom..” (2)  Josephine did not want her sister to leave her side knowing how much she cared for her health.  Not only is Josephine a caring sister but she showed a more naïve side when it came to her sister’s marriage as well.  In the retold story Josephine looks at her sister’s marriage as something that she is lucky for, she said “I was apprehensive after what Brently had told me, yet he reassured me that she will be okay since he will take good care of her. She was blessed with a good husband who truly loved her and for that I was genuinely happy.”(2)  From this you can get a sense of how little Josephine really knew about her sister’s marriage compared to Louise’s health.

Although each story may have different narrators, both Louise and Josephine each have a unique outlook on the marriage after the death of Brently Mallard.  The limited third-person narrator in the original “The Story of An Hour” to the homodiegtic narrator in my retold story “A Weak Heart” the reader still gets the same dark tone in the story but from just a different perspective.  Also they may have these noticeable differences but even though Louise may have realized her freedom she still loved her husband.   “And yet she had loved him—sometimes.”(2) Josephine may have seemed naïve about certain aspects on her sister’s marriage yet she wasn’t entirely wrong neither since Louise still did love her husband.

From third-person to first-person in a short story you may be limited in certain aspects of the story based on the perspective of the character or narrator; because of these limitations you may not know what could be going on outside the world of the character.  Although they have these differences between the narrations you still get a sense of an exclusive short story.  That is why I chose to do this retelling of “The Story of An Hour.”

Additional midterm-exam information

Some of you have asked about the short-answer portion of the midterm exam. Here’s a description: there will be a list of terms from “Elements of Fiction” (don’t forget to look at all the sections of the site, not just the home page!) and from the list I posted on the blog (there is a lot of overlap, but some terms are only in one place or the other). There will also be a list of passages from our readings this semester. You will have to identify which term is an appropriate label for that passage AND explain why in a sentence or two. There might be more than one right answer, for example, if a passage is an example of first-person narration and setting–either would be correct in that case. You will not get credit, though, if you do not provide an explanation of why it is the appropriate label, since I won’t know if you know the terms or are just guessing.

Bonus points for correctly identifying the source of the passage!

Also, I added a new poll to the sidebar–I’m curious to know your interests for the essay topics. You can choose up to three in the poll.

Fiction: terms for study

These are the terms we reviewed in class at the beginning of the semester, plus the few more that we added to our list of terms. Many of them come from Ann Charters’s “Elements of Fiction.” You should review them and be sure you know what they mean, (especially the terms for different types of narrators for Essay 1)!

plot: the series of events that give a story its meaning and effect: what happens

rising action: the events in which the drama intensifies, rising toward the climax

climax: the most dramatic and revealing moment, usually the turning point

falling action: when the drama subsides and the conflict is resolved

protagonist: the central agent in generating its plot, and this individual can embody the story’s theme

antagonist: the character or force in conflict with the protagonist

round character: a complex, fully developed character, often prone to change

flat character: A one-dimensional character, typically not central to the story

characterization: The process by which an author presents and develops a fictional character

setting: the story’s time and place, as well as its historical moment or its social context

first-person point of view: narration identifiable by the use of the pronoun “I”

second-person point of view: narrator uses “you” to addresses reader

Third-person point of view: narration doesn’t use “I”; occurs when the narrator does not take part in the story

omniscient narration: when the narrator includes information from anywhere, including characters’ thoughts and feelings. (omniscient=all-knowing)

limited narration: when the narrator can relate what is in the minds of only a select few characters

objective/dramatic narration: when the narrator doesn’t have access to characters’ internal thoughts or background information about the setting or situation.

homodiegetic narration: when the narrator is part of the story-world–a character within the story. This would be a first-person narrator, and can also be called a character narrator.

autodiegetic narration: when the narrator is the protagonist. This is a sub-set of homodiegetic narration

prolepsis: a change in the order of the story representing a flash-forward

analepsis: a change in the order of the story representing a flashback

focalizer: a character whose point of view or thoughts the narrator represents–most closely represented in “Elements of fiction” as a point-of-view character. There can be multiple focalizers in a narrative. The narrator is the focalizer in a homodiegetic, or first-person, narration.

diction: the word choices the author makes to tell the story

tone: the story’s attitude toward its subject matter–it can be earnest, sarcastic, humorous, etc

theme: the meaning or concept central to the story

image: descriptive language that engages on of the senses, such as a visual image that makes the reader imagine what something looks like, or a tactile images that depicts what something feels like, etc

symbol: a repeated image that comes to take on a larger meaning in a given story

allegory: a story in which the symbols, characters, and events represent a different metaphysical, political, or social situation that elevates the meaning of the story


Freedom & “The Story of An Hour”

Death complicates the meanings of usually positive outcomes like healing, or freedom, and they become what they are through an extreme method. Those who are sick or bound wish for healing and freedom, but they may not get it the way they had hoped for. This, I believe is the case of Louise Mallard. She was married to a man whom she “sometimes” loved. It was not explicitly said in this story that she was unhappy in this marriage; she did mourn the death of her husband. Love was present, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I believe she goes through a process in this hour and processes usually aren’t sudden, however, processes don’t need to take forever. She had her time to reflect and grieve, and as the story progresses we see that there is a gradual change.

Paragraph 9 says: “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it,  creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.”

I believe that is the moment where the emotional shift takes place; the moment where she is finding strength to move on from this momentary grief. If we notice the language of the author, these are not sudden movements taking place. There is creeping, and reaching, and waiting.

Paragraph 10 says: “She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to posses her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will..”

“When she abandoned herself a little word escaped her slightly parted lips.”

Here we can see the process continuing, and the “thing” that was approaching had now arrived and we know what it is when she starts saying “free, free, free! Body and soul free!” These seem like shouts of joy but again if we pay attention to the author’s language we see that they were more like whispers. She said these words under her breath. From this I get that this freedom was somehow what she wanted but maybe she got it in a way that she didn’t, which is why she struggled with the feeling at first: “she was striving to beat it back with her will–as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.” As the process progresses she embraces this bittersweet freedom. Her mindset has shifted. She’s sad but she is ready to move on. The feeling of freedom is now setting in, and she is becoming comfortable with it. The process is winding down towards the end of the story and we see that she feels optimistic about her life now.

In a moment her freedom is stripped when she sees that her husband has not died. In a moment directly after it, this complex freedom returns with her death. She does not die with her freedom, but she dies and gains it.

Words we think of when we think of fiction

  • Story
  • Characters
  • Story-telling
  • Story
  • Make up story
  • Fantasy
  • Adventure
  • Adventure
  • Made up
  • Bringing life to something unreal
  • Plot
  • Reading
  • Generation of robot. Everyone has memory of computer.
  • A story
  • Realistic
  • Not real
  • Fake
  • Not real
  • Fake
  • Imagined reality as compared to a known or learned reality
  • Literature
  • Fairy tales
  • Future technology
  • Anything can happen
  • Resolving an issue
  • Imagination
  • Virtual world
  • Intangible
  • Different world
  • You can make up anything
  • Unrealistic
  • Folk tale
  • Creative writing
  • Fairy tales
  • Other world
  • Pages
  • Dragons & monsters
  • Imagination
  • Imagination
Or thought of a different way:

Click below to view a larger version:

(click image below to view on Wordle.net)

Wordle: When We Think of Fiction