Kate Chopin uses many different elements to create the theme of "The Story of an Hour." Irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing are important elements that create the theme. The theme of "The Story of an Hour" is the frailty of life. .
Irony is the first element of "The Story of an Hour." The main irony in the story is that Mrs. Mallard has a new life created and then destroyed for her, all in an hour. She sees a life of freedom ahead of her because of the death of her husband. This new life is then horribly ripped away from her when he walks through the door alive. His appearance then kills her. Another example of irony is that her new life was created by death. Her husband was listed as killed in a railroad accident, and she saw his death as a fresh start on a free life. "She saw that beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely," says Chopin. The third irony is the fact that she does feel joy at the death of her husband, which is normally quite unexpected. Even her sister and her husband's friend Richard expected her to be heartbroken, and they were fearful for her health. Instead she was so happy, it killed her when he appeared alive. Finally, after hearing of his death, she prayed that her life would be long when "only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long." Soon after, she dies. Even the title of the story is ironic when the end result of the story is known. A new life was created and destroyed all within an hour, showing how frail life is.
There are also several instances of symbolism in this story that help the theme of frailty of life. The "new spring life" that Chopin mentions symbolizes the new life that Mrs. Mallard feels for herself. The way that Richards and Mrs. Mallard's sister break the news to her symbolizes the way women were viewed during Chopin's lifetime. In those days, women were viewed as very frail and weak.