“The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin (1850 – 1904) is a short story that was originally published on December 6, 1894 in Vogue magazine under the title “The Dream of an Hour.” This story, which appeared in St. Louis Life the following year as “The Story of an Hour,” has been much anthologized and is still studied. Like Chopin’s best-known work, the 1899 novella The Awakening, this story was controversial when it first appeared.
The story’s main character, Louise Mallard, who has a weak heart, learns that her husband has died in an accident. The hour referred to in the title is the time that elapses after she receives this news. At first, Louise collapses into her sister’s arms, but then, when she is alone with her thoughts, she whispers, “Free! Body and soul free!” Rather than feeling devastated, she feels quite liberated. Read More→
A Jury of Her Peers by Susan Glaspell (1876 – 1948), a 1917 short story, is arguably this American author’s most enduring work. Certainly, it’s one of her most anthologized. It grew from her 1916 one-act play, Trifles (you can also read the full text of Trifles here), also a widely anthologized work.
Both Trifles and A Jury of Her Peers were inspired by a true crime story that Glaspell covered as a reporter for theDes Moines Daily News in 1900. The murder of John Hossack, a 59-year-old Iowa farmer, was a local sensation because the suspect was his wife Margaret. Because it was suspected that Mrs. Hossack was abused by her husband, it was also assumed that she had motive, and so she was arrested and charged. Read More→
Trifles is a 1916 one-act play by the American author and playwright Susan Glaspell (1876 – 1948). It’s one of her most anthologized works, along with the 1917 short story she based upon this play, A Jury of Her Peers. Trifles was first performed at the Wharf Theater in Provincetown Massachusetts in August of 1916. The author herself performed as Mrs. Hale, the wife of a neighboring farmer.
Glaspell’s inspiration was the true crime story of the murder of John Hossack, a 59-year-old farmer. Working as a journalist at the time of the incident in 1900, Glaspell covered it for the Des Moines Daily News. The case was a sensation, because Hossack’s wife Margaret was accused of killing him. Neighbors believed that Margaret Hossack was an abused wife, and thus, she was the object of suspicion. Read More→
“The Two Offers” by Frances Watkins Harper (1825 – 1922; also known as Frances E.W. Harper and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper) is believed to be the first published short story by an African-American writer. It first appeared in the June and July 1859 issues of the Anglo-African Magazine, a publication based in New York that featured the writings of black authors.
Written in the sentimental, somewhat stilted style of the era, the story is an example of “reform literature,” steeped in the values of Christianity, morality, and domesticity. It’s set in an era in which women of any class or race were basically the property of their fathers and husbands, were they not owned in the bonds of slavery.
The story centers on two cousins, Laura Lagrange and Janette Alston. Laura and ponders two offers of marriage. This was about as much choice as many women could exercise at a time when it was considered more important to be “the angel of the house” than the mistress of one’s own life. Read More→
One of Gertrude Stein’s earliest published works, Tender Buttons (1914) is this delightfully perplexing author’s attempt to “create a relationship between the word and the things seen.”
Especially in the first years since its publication, critics have been divided between praising Tender Buttons as a masterwork of of experimental cubist literature, or trashing it as pure nonsense. Contemporary interpretations tend to find it praiseworthy. Whatever camp you find yourself in, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that this slim volume of prose poetry is entertaining, if more than occasionally head-scratching. You can read two original reviews from the time of its 1914 publication here. Read More→