The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay

Looking for a critical analysis of The Story of an Hour ? The essay on this page contains a summary of Kate Chopin’s short story, its interpretation, and feminist criticism. Find below The Story of an Hour critique together with the analysis of its characters, themes, symbolism, and irony.


Works cited.

The Story of an Hour was written by Kate Chopin in 1984. It describes a woman, Mrs. Mallard, who lost her husband in an accident, but later the truth came out, and the husband was alive. This essay will discuss The Story of an Hour with emphasis on the plot and development of the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, who goes through contrasting emotions and feelings that finally kill her on meeting her husband at the door, yet he had been said to be dead.

The Story of an Hour Summary

Kate Chopin narrated the story of a woman named Mrs. Mallard who had a heart health problem. One day the husband was mistaken to have died in an accident that occurred. Due to her heart condition, her sister had to take care while breaking the bad news to her. She was afraid that such news of her husband’s death would cost her a heart attack. She strategized on how to break the news to her sister bit by bit, which worked perfectly well. Mrs. Mallard did not react as expected; instead, she started weeping just once.

She did not hear the story as many women have had the same with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms (Woodlief 2).

Mrs. Mallard wondered how she would survive without a husband. She went to one room and locked herself alone to ponder what the death of her husband brought to her life. She was sorrowful that her husband had died, like it is human to be sad at such times. This is someone very close to her, but only in a short span of time was no more. This sudden death shocked her. Her sister Josephine and friends Mr. Richard and Louise are also sorry for the loss (Taibah 1).

As she was in that room alone, she thought genuinely about the future. Unexpectedly, she meditated on her life without her husband. Apart from sorrow, she started counting the better part of her life without her husband. She saw many opportunities and freedom to do what she wanted with her life. She believed that the coming years would be perfect for her as she only had herself to worry about. She even prayed that life would be long.

After some time, she opened the door for Josephine, her sister, who had a joyous face. They went down the stairs of the house, and Mr. Mallard appeared as he opened the gate. Mr. Mallard had not been involved in the accident and could not understand why Josephine was crying. At the sight of her husband, Mr. Mallard, his wife, Mrs. Mallard, collapsed to death. The doctors said that she died because of heart disease.

The Story of an Hour Analysis

Mrs. Mallard was known to have a heart problem. Richard, who is Mr. Mallard’s friend, was the one who learned of Mr. Mallard’s death while in the office and about the railroad accident that killed him. They are with Josephine, Mrs. Mallard’s sister, as she breaks the news concerning the sudden death of her husband. The imagery clearly describes the situation.

The writer brought out the suspense in the way he described how the news was to be broken to a person with a heart problem. There is a conflict that then follows in Mrs. Mallard’s response which becomes more complicated. The death saddens Mrs. Mallard, but, on the other hand, she counts beyond the bitter moments and sees freedom laid down for her for the rest of her life. The description of the room and the environment symbolize a desire for freedom.

This story mostly focuses on this woman and a marriage institution. Sad and happy moments alternate in the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard. She is initially sad about the loss of her husband, then in a moment, ponders on the effects of his death and regains strength.

Within a short period, she is shocked by the sight of her husband being alive and even goes to the extreme of destroying her life. She then dies of a heart attack, whereas she was supposed to be happy to see her husband alive. This is an excellent contrast of events, but it makes the story very interesting.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below, a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song that someone was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves. There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window (Woodlief 1).

Therefore, an open window is symbolic. It represents new opportunities and possibilities that she now had in her hands without anyone to stop her, and she refers to it as a new spring of life.

She knew that she was not in a position to bring her husband back to life.

Her feelings were mixed up. Deep inside her, she felt that she had been freed from living for another person.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her… She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death, the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead (Sparknotes 1).

The author captured a marriage institution that was dominated by a man. This man, Mr. Mallard, did not treat his wife as she would like (the wife) at all times, only sometimes. This Cleary showed that she was peaceful even if her husband was dead. Only some sorrow because of the loss of his life but not of living without him. It seemed that she never felt the love for her husband.

And yet she had loved him sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this procession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! (Woodlief 1).

How could a wife be peaceful at the death of her husband? Though people thought that she treasured her husband, Mr. Mallard, so much and was afraid that she would be stressed, she did not see much of the bitterness like she found her freedom. This reveals how women are oppressed in silence but never exposed due to other factors such as wealth, money, and probably outfits.

As much as wealth is essential, the characters Mr. and Mrs. Mallard despise the inner being. Their hearts were crying amid a physical smile: “Free! Body and soul free!”…Go away. I am not making myself ill.” No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window” (Woodlief 1).

In this excerpt, Mrs. Mallard knows what she is doing and believes that she is not harming herself. Instead, she knew that though the husband was important to her, marriage had made her a subject to him. This was not in a positive manner but was against her will. It seems she had done many things against her will, against herself, but to please her husband.

Mrs. Mallard’s character is therefore developed throughout this story in a short time and reveals many values that made her what she was. She is a woman with a big desire for freedom that was deprived by a man in marriage. She is very emotional because after seeing her freedom denied for the second time by her husband, who was mistaken to have died, she collapses and dies. The contrast is when the writer says, “She had died of heart disease…of the joy that kills” (Woodlief 1).

Mrs. Mallard was not able to handle the swings in her emotions, and this cost her life. Mr. Mallard was left probably mourning for his wife, whom he never treasured. He took her for granted and had to face the consequences. Oppressing a wife or another person causes a more significant loss to the oppressor. It is quite ironic that Mr. Mallard never knew that his presence killed his wife.

Sparknotes. The Story of an Hour. Sparknotes, 2011. Web.

Taibah. The Story of an Hour. Taibah English Forum, 2011. Web.

Woodlief. The story of an hour . VCU, 2011. Web.

Further Study: FAQ

📌 who is the protagonist in the story of an hour, 📌 when was the story of an hour written, 📌 what is the story of an hour about, 📌 what is the conclusion the story of an hour.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2023, October 28). The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay.

"The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay." IvyPanda , 28 Oct. 2023,

IvyPanda . (2023) 'The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay'. 28 October.

IvyPanda . 2023. "The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay." October 28, 2023.

1. IvyPanda . "The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay." October 28, 2023.


IvyPanda . "The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay." October 28, 2023.

  • Louise Mallard in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
  • Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour
  • The Novel "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
  • Women and Freedom in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
  • Imagery and Symbolism in "Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
  • Marriage in "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin
  • Literary Analysis: The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
  • The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
  • Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”
  • Protagonists in Literature
  • Symbolism in the "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller
  • The Other Wes Moore
  • Henry David Thoreau: The Maine Woods, Walden, Cape Cod
  • Analysis of “The Dubious Rewards of Consumption”
  • Moral Dilemma’s in the Breakdown 1968 and the Missing Person

Literary Theory and Criticism

Home › Literature › Analysis of Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

Analysis of Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

By NASRULLAH MAMBROL on July 28, 2021

Originally entitled “The Dream of an Hour” when it was first published in Vogue (December 1894), “The Story of an Hour” has since become one of Kate Chopin’s most frequently anthologized stories. Among her shortest and most daring works, “Story” examines issues of feminism, namely, a woman’s dissatisfaction in a conventional marriage and her desire for independence. It also features Chopin’s characteristic irony and ambiguity .

The story begins with Louise Mallard’s being told about her husband’s presumed death in a train accident. Louise initially weeps with wild abandon, then retires alone to her upstairs bedroom. As she sits facing the open window, observing the new spring life outside, she realizes with a “clear and exalted perception” that she is now free of her husband’s “powerful will bending hers” (353). She becomes delirious with the prospect that she can now live for herself and prays that her life may be long. Her newfound independence is short-lived, however. In a surprise ending, her husband walks through the front door, and Louise suffers a heart attack and dies. Her death may be considered a tragic defeat or a pyrrhic victory for a woman who would rather die than lose that “possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” (353). The doctors ironically attribute her death to the “joy that kills” (354).

BIBLIOGRAPHY Chopin, Kate. The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Edited by Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969. Koloski, Bernard. Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1996. Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969. Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin. New York: Morrow, 1990

the story of an hour critique essay

Share this:

Categories: Literature , Short Story

Tags: American Literature , Analysis of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour , calicut university materials of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour , criticism of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour , Kate Chopin , Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour , Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour criticism , Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour essay , Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour notes , Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour plot , Literary Criticism , plotKate Chopin's The Story of an Hour , summary of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour , The Dream of an Hour , themes of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour

Related Articles

Italo Calvino

You must be logged in to post a comment.

the story of an hour critique essay

The Story of an Hour

Kate chopin, everything you need for every book you read..

Women in 19th-Century Society Theme Icon

Analysis of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin

Self-Determination and Louise Mallard Living for Herself

 D Fu Tong Zhao /EyeEm/Getty Images

  • Short Stories
  • Best Sellers
  • Classic Literature
  • Plays & Drama
  • Shakespeare
  • Children's Books
  • Ph.D., English, State University of New York at Albany
  • B.A., English, Brown University

"The Story of an Hour" by American author Kate Chopin is a mainstay of feminist literary study . Originally published in 1894, the story documents the complicated reaction of Louise Mallard upon learning of her husband's death.

It is difficult to discuss "The Story of an Hour" without addressing the ironic ending. If you haven't read the story yet, you might as well, as it's only about 1,000 words. The Kate Chopin International Society is kind enough to provide a free, accurate version .

At the Beginning, News That Will Devastate Louise

At the beginning of the story, Richards and Josephine believe they must break the news of Brently Mallard's death to Louise Mallard as gently as possible. Josephine informs her "in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing." Their assumption, not an unreasonable one, is that this unthinkable news will be devastating to Louise and will threaten her weak heart.

A Growing Awareness of Freedom

Yet something even more unthinkable lurks in this story: Louise's growing awareness of the freedom she will have without Brently.

At first, she doesn't consciously allow herself to think about this freedom. The knowledge reaches her wordlessly and symbolically, via the "open window" through which she sees the "open square" in front of her house. The repetition of the word "open" emphasizes possibility and a lack of restrictions.

Patches of Blue Sky Amid the Clouds

The scene is full of energy and hope. The trees are "all aquiver with the new spring of life," the "delicious breath of rain" is in the air, sparrows are twittering, and Louise can hear someone singing a song in the distance. She can see "patches of blue sky" amid the clouds.

She observes these patches of blue sky without registering what they might mean. Describing Louise's gaze, Chopin writes, "It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought." If she had been thinking intelligently, social norms might have prevented her from such a heretical recognition. Instead, the world offers her "veiled hints" that she slowly pieces together without even realizing she is doing so.

A Force Is Too Powerful to Oppose

In fact, Louise resists the impending awareness, regarding it "fearfully." As she begins to realize what it is, she strives "to beat it back with her will." Yet its force is too powerful to oppose.

This story can be uncomfortable to read because, on the surface, Louise seems to be glad that her husband has died. But that isn't quite accurate. She thinks of Brently's "kind, tender hands" and "the face that had never looked save with love upon her," and she recognizes that she has not finished weeping for him.

Her Desire for Self-Determination

But his death has made her see something she hasn't seen before and might likely never have seen if he had lived: her desire for self-determination .

Once she allows herself to recognize her approaching freedom, she utters the word "free" over and over again, relishing it. Her fear and her uncomprehending stare are replaced by acceptance and excitement. She looks forward to "years to come that would belong to her absolutely."

She Would Live for Herself

In one of the most important passages of the story, Chopin describes Louise's vision of self-determination. It's not so much about getting rid of her husband as it is about being entirely in charge of her own life, "body and soul." Chopin writes:

"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 will upon a fellow-creature."

Note the phrase men and women. Louise never catalogs any specific offenses Brently has committed against her; rather, the implication seems to be that marriage can be stifling for both parties.

The Irony of Joy That Kills

When Brently Mallard enters the house alive and well in the final scene, his appearance is utterly ordinary. He is "a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella." His mundane appearance contrasts greatly with Louise's "feverish triumph" and her walking down the stairs like a "goddess of Victory."

When the doctors determine that Louise "died of heart disease -- of joy that kills," the reader immediately recognizes the irony . It seems clear that her shock was not joy over her husband's survival, but rather distress over losing her cherished, newfound freedom. Louise did briefly experience joy -- the joy of imagining herself in control of her own life. And it was the removal of that intense joy that led to her death.

  • 'The Awakening' Quotes
  • "The Story of an Hour" Characters
  • Quotes From 'The Story of an Hour' by Kate Chopin
  • 'The Story of an Hour' Questions for Study and Discussion
  • Miss Brill's Fragile Fantasy
  • Kate Chopin's 'The Awakening' of Edna Pontellier
  • Biography of Harriet Tubman
  • Analysis of the Robert Browning's Poem 'My Last Duchess'
  • Individuality and Self-Worth: Feminist Accomplishment in Jane Eyre
  • Biography of Helen Keller, Deaf and Blind Spokesperson and Activist
  • Biography of Kate Chase Sprague, Ambitious Political Daughter
  • Biography of Kate Chopin, American Author and Protofeminist
  • Analysis of "Feathers" by Raymond Carver
  • Germaine Greer Quotes
  • Empress Carlota of Mexico
  • Analysis of 'The Yellow Wallpaper' by C. Perkins Gilman

The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example

This sample will help you write a The Story of an Hour analysis essay! Here you’ll find a The Story of an Hour summary. Essay also contains a plot and character analysis.


The story of an hour introduction, the story of an hour main plot, the story of an hour conclusion, the story of an hour analysis.

The Story of an Hour is a short story written by Kate Chopin in 1894. This famous piece of literature was controversial for its time, as the story mentioned a female protagonist who felt relieved after her husband’s death. The conclusion of The Story of an Hour is ironic, which makes the ending memorable.

The following The Story of an Hour literary analysis essay will summarize the plot and present an extensive character analysis of Mrs. Mallard. It will be helpful for those writing a The Story of an Hour critical analysis.

Kate Chopin (born Catherine O’Flaherty) was an American writer. She is best known for her narratives of delicate and brave women’s inner lives. Her novel “The Awakening” and her short stories, among them The Story of an Hour, are being read in countries all over the world today. She is widely recognized as one of the most important authors in America.

In 1984, Kate Chopin wrote The Story of an Hour. It portrays a woman, Louise Mallard, who lost her husband in an accident. However, she later discovers that the husband survived. Mrs. Mallard goes through many emotions and feelings, reevaluating her life. That ultimately kills her when she meets her presumably dead husband at the door. The following The Story of an Hour essay will focus on the plot and the protagonist’s self-development.

The Story of an Hour Summary

Louise Mallard, the main character, had always had a heart problem. It was not a secret for her friends and relatives, so everyone tried to protect her from worries.

One day her husband, Brently Mallard, was mistaken for having died in a horrible railroad accident. Richard, Mr. Mallard’s friend, was the one who learned about this death while in the office. Josephine, Louise’s sister, broke the news to her.

Josephine was very cautious because of Mrs. Mallard’s health issue. She feared such a tragedy would cause a heart attack. Bit by bit, she strategized how to tell everything to her sister, aher plan went perfectly well. Mrs. Mallard wept only once. She did not receive the story like many women would, with a helpless incapacity to acknowledge its meaning. She only cried in her sister’s arms with a feeling of a sudden, wild abandonment (Woodlief 2).

Immediately Mrs. Mallard found herself wondering how she could survive without her husband. She went to a room and locked herself to contemplate the consequences of his death. She was devastated, and this sadness was only natural. This man had been close to her, even though only for a short time. Her sister Josephine and Mr. Richard also mourned the loss (Taibah 1).

Mrs. Mallard was alone in that room, thinking about the future. As she was contemplating her fate, instead of grief, she began realizing that this was the beginning of a better part of her life. Louise saw independence and plenty of possibilities to do what her heart desired. Now, she had only to think about herself.

Later, Josephine comes to Louise’s room, crying with a joyous smile. They descend the house’s stairs, where Mr. Mallard appears at the door. He was not involved in the accident and did not understand why Josephine was crying. At the shock of seeing her husband again, Mrs. Mallard collapses. The doctors declare that she died because of the problems with her heart.

Health issues of the central character play a significant role in the story. The author managed to bring suspense in the way she described telling the bad news to a person with a heart problem. Josephine, Louise’s sister, tries her best to be careful and attentive, expecting a painful response. However, Mrs. Mallard reacts better than anticipated.

The story focuses mostly on femininity and the institution of marriage. The analysis of The Story of an Hour has to speculate on it to reveal the core message.

The author was able to illustrate that men entirely dominate the institution of marriage. Mr. Mallard, for instance, treated his wife the way she wanted only from time to time. For years, Louise has done many things to please her husband without looking after her well-being. So, having received the disturbing news, she is quite happy. It seemed that she had never cared for her husband at all.

Or did she? Mrs. Mallard’s reaction to the death of a spouse is complicated. She cannot escape the loneliness and grief that came with the loss. But the possibility of happiness prevails. Louise knew that marriage had made her a subject for him against her will. She only felt sorrow for the loss of his life but not for living without him. She felt deep inside that she had been freed from the chains of living for another person.

Mr. Mallard’s apparent death saddened Louise at first. She was devastated about his fate but regained strength quickly. Louise was well aware of the fact that she could not bring her husband back. So, she came to terms with it, which wasn’t difficult. Mrs. Mallard saw beyond the painful moment, anticipating freedom for the rest of her life.

The room and environment around Mrs. Mallard symbolize her desire for freedom. For example, Mrs. Mallard could see the tops of trees through the window. They were all aquiver with the new spring life on the open square before her house. There was a delicious breath of rain in the air. A peddler was weeping his wares in the street below. There were spots of blue sky showing up here and there through the clouds in the west facing her window, which had met and piled up one above the other (Woodlief 1).

An open window could be interpreted as a metaphor. It reflects new possibilities and resources that Mrs. Mallard now had in her sights without anybody stopping her. She referred to it as the late spring of life.

The story reveals how women were secretly marginalized. At the time, society expected them to pursue wealth and safety, which came with a husband. Liberty should be neither their worry nor their goal. When Louise felt freedom after Mr. Mallard’s death, she kept it secret for obvious reasons. But then, her sister arrived.

Mrs. Mallard was shocked by the sight of her husband alive. All of her newfound liberty and dreams came crashing down at that moment. This shattering experience even goes to the extreme of destroying her life. Whereas she was to be happy to see her husband alive, Louise died from a heart attack.

Situational irony is presented in the author’s stylistic use of words: “She had died of heart disease…of the joy that kills.” People around anticipated this tragedy from the news about Mr. Mallard’s death, not miraculous survival.

The author explored the character of Mrs. Mallard throughout this story. The reader can’t be surprised by her sudden death or miss its irony. Louise is a woman with a great desire for independence, which a man has deprived her of through marriage. Mr. Mallard represents the absence of her liberty that restores after his death. When Mrs. Mallard sees her husband at the door once again, she collapses and never wakes up.

Based on this The Story of an Hour literary analysis, we can draw several important conclusions. Mrs. Mallard couldn’t control her emotions when they concerned the most vital matters. The lack of liberty and independence may have caused her heart problems in the first place. And they cost her life in the end.

Her husband, Mr. Mallard, took Louise’s freedom when he married her. However, as it became apparent from the story, he never valued her. When she died, he had finally faced the consequences of always taking her existence for granted.

Therefore, the oppressor faced even worse tragedy than the oppressed. The dramatic irony of Mr. Mallard’s unawareness of his wife’s true feelings towards him is a big part of the story. So, in the end, it was Mr. Mallard’s presence that killed his wife.

  • Chopin, Kate. The Story of an hour . The Kate Chopin International Society. Web.
  • Woodlief, Ann. The Story of an Hour . 2011, Virginia Commonwealth University. Web.

What is the symbolism in The Story of an Hour?

Through The Story of an Hour, the author presents us with the inner feelings and thoughts of a woman using various symbols. Mrs. Mallard’s heart problem symbolizes her dissatisfaction with the marriage, while the open window illustrates her aspirations towards a better, independent life.

What is the meaning behind The Story of an Hour?

Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour analysis illustrates that the author wanted to tell us how the society of that time was unfair towards women. It also shows the delicate and complicated inner world of a woman.

What does The Story of an Hour critique?

The Story of an Hour criticizes the typical experience of marriage in the 1890s. For women, such marriage was repressive and meant their loss of personal freedoms. Therefore, the story criticizes the society of that time dominated by men.

How do you start a critical analysis of The Story of an Hour?

Start your analysis of The Story of an Hour with a short introduction. Remember to say a few words about its author and her life. Next, talk about the story and let the reader know what it is about.

What are the two main themes in The Story of an Hour?

Firstly, the theme of a female search for self-identity is featured strongly in the story. The second theme is that of repressive marriage. The reader sees it in the way Mrs. Mallard’s reaction toward her husband’s death shifts.

Cite this paper

  • Chicago (N-B)
  • Chicago (A-D)

StudyCorgi. (2020, July 9). The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example.

"The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example." StudyCorgi , 9 July 2020,

StudyCorgi . (2020) 'The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example'. 9 July.

1. StudyCorgi . "The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example." July 9, 2020.


StudyCorgi . "The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example." July 9, 2020.

StudyCorgi . 2020. "The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example." July 9, 2020.

This paper, “The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary – Essay Example”, was written and voluntary submitted to our free essay database by a straight-A student. Please ensure you properly reference the paper if you're using it to write your assignment.

Before publication, the StudyCorgi editorial team proofread and checked the paper to make sure it meets the highest standards in terms of grammar, punctuation, style, fact accuracy, copyright issues, and inclusive language. Last updated: January 24, 2024 .

If you are the author of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal . Please use the “ Donate your paper ” form to submit an essay.


Choose Your Test

Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the story of an hour: summary and analysis.

author image

General Education


Imagine a world where women are fighting for unprecedented rights, the economic climate is unpredictable, and new developments in technology are made every year. While this world might sound like the present day, it also describes America in the 1890s . 

It was in this world that author Kate Chopin wrote and lived, and many of the issues of the period are reflected in her short story, “The Story of an Hour.” Now, over a century later, the story remains one of Kate Chopin’s most well-known works and continues to shed light on the internal struggle of women who have been denied autonomy.

In this guide to Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” we’ll discuss:

  • A brief history of Kate Chopin and America the 1890s
  • “The Story of an Hour” summary
  • Analysis of the key story elements in “The Story of an Hour,” including themes, characters, and symbols

By the end of this article, you’ll have an expert grasp on Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” So let’s get started!


“The Story of an Hour” Summary

If it’s been a little while since you’ve read Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” it can be hard to remember the important details. This section includes a quick recap, but you can find “The Story of an Hour” PDF and full version here . We recommend you read it again before diving into our analyses in the next section! 

For those who just need a refresher, here’s “The Story of an Hour” summary: 

Mrs. Louise Mallard is at home when her sister, Josephine, and her husband’s friend, Richards, come to tell her that her husband, Brently Mallard, has been killed in a railroad accident . Richards had been at the newspaper office when the news broke, and he takes Josephine with him to break the news to Louise since they’re afraid of aggravating her heart condition. Upon hearing the news of her husband’s death, Louise is grief-stricken, locks herself in her room, and weeps.

From here, the story shifts in tone. As Louise processes the news of her husband’s death, she realizes something wonderful and terrible at the same time: she is free . At first she’s scared to admit it, but Louise quickly finds peace and joy in her admission. She realizes that, although she will be sad about her husband (“she had loved him—sometimes,” Chopin writes), Louise is excited for the opportunity to live for herself. She keeps repeating the word “free” as she comes to terms with what her husband’s death means for her life. 

In the meantime, Josephine sits at Louise’s door, coaxing her to come out because she is worried about Louise’s heart condition. After praying that her life is long-lived, Louise agrees to come out. However, as she comes downstairs, the front door opens to reveal her husband, who had not been killed by the accident at all. Although Richards tries to keep Louise’s heart from shock by shielding her husband from view, Louise dies suddenly, which the doctors later attribute to “heart disease—of the joy that kills .”


Kate Chopin, the author of "The Story of an Hour," has become one of the most important American writers of the 19th century. 

The History of Kate Chopin and the 1890s

Before we move into “The Story of an Hour” analysis section, it’s helpful to know a little bit about Kate Chopin and the world she lived in. 

A Short Biography of Kate Chopin

Born in 1850 to wealthy Catholic parents in St. Louis, Missouri, Kate Chopin (originally Kate O’Flaherty) knew hardship from an early age. In 1855, Chopin lost her father, Thomas, when he passed away in a tragic and unexpected railroad accident. The events of this loss would stay with Kate for the rest of her life, eventually becoming the basis for “The Story of an Hour” nearly forty years later.

Chopin was well-educated throughout her childhood , reading voraciously and becoming fluent in French. Chopin was also very aware of the divide between the powerful and the oppressed in society at the time . She grew up during the U.S. Civil War, so she had first-hand knowledge of violence and slavery in the United States. 

Chopin was also exposed to non-traditional roles for women through her familial situation. Her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother chose to remain widows (rather than remarry) after their husbands died. Consequently, Chopin learned how important women’s independence could be, and that idea would permeate much of her writing later on. 

As Chopin grew older, she became known for her beauty and congeniality by society in St. Louis. She was married at the age of nineteen to Oscar Chopin, who came from a wealthy cotton-growing family. The couple moved to New Orleans, where they would start both a general store and a large family. (Chopin would give birth to seven children over the next nine years!) 

While Oscar adored his wife, he was less capable of running a business. Financial trouble forced the family to move around rural Louisiana. Unfortunately, Oscar would die of swamp fever in 1882 , leaving Chopin in heavy debt and with the responsibility of managing the family’s struggling businesses. 

After trying her hand at managing the property for a year, Chopin conceded to her mother’s requests to return with her children to St. Louis. Chopin’s mother died the year after. In order to support herself and her children, Kate began to write to support her family. 

Luckily, Chopin found immediate success as a writer. Many of her short stories and novels—including her most famous novel, The Awakening— dealt with life in Louisiana . She was also known as a fast and prolific writer, and by the end of the 1900s she had written over 100 stories, articles, and essays. 

Unfortunately, Chopin would pass away from a suspected cerebral hemorrhage in 1904, at the age of 54 . But Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and other writings have withstood the test of time. Her work has lived on, and she’s now recognized as one of the most important American writers of the 19th century. 


American life was undergoing significant change in the 19th century. Technology, culture, and even leisure activities were changing. 

American Life in the 1890s

“The Story of an Hour” was written and published in 1894, right as the 1800s were coming to a close. As the world moved into the new century, American life was also changing rapidly. 

For instance, t he workplace was changing drastically in the 1890s . Gone were the days where most people were expected to work at a trade or on a farm. Factory jobs brought on by industrialization made work more efficient, and many of these factory owners gradually implemented more humane treatment of their workers, giving them more leisure time than ever.

Though the country was in an economic recession at this time, technological changes like electric lighting and the popularization of radios bettered the daily lives of many people and allowed for the creation of new jobs. Notably, however, work was different for women . Working women as a whole were looked down upon by society, no matter why they found themselves in need of a job. 

Women who worked while they were married or pregnant were judged even more harshly. Women of Kate Chopin’s social rank were expected to not work at all , sometimes even delegating the responsibility of managing the house or child-rearing to maids or nannies. In the 1890s, working was only for lower class women who could not afford a life of leisure .

In reaction to this, the National American Woman Suffrage Association was created in 1890, which fought for women’s social and political rights. While Kate Chopin was not a formal member of the suffragette movements, she did believe that women should have greater freedoms as individuals and often talked about these ideas in her works, including in “The Story of an Hour.” 


Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" a short exploration of marriage and repression in America.

“The Story of an Hour” Analysis

Now that you have some important background information, it’s time to start analyzing “The Story of an Hour.”

This short story is filled with opposing forces . The themes, characters, and even symbols in the story are often equal, but opposite, of one another. Within “The Story of an Hour,” analysis of all of these elements reveals a deeper meaning.

“The Story of an Hour” Themes

A theme is a message explored in a piece of literature. Most stories have multiple themes, which is certainly the case in “The Story of an Hour.” Even though Chopin’s story is short, it discusses the thematic ideas of freedom, repression, and marriage. 

Keep reading for a discussion of the importance of each theme! 

Freedom and Repression

The most prevalent theme in Chopin’s story is the battle between freedom and “repression.” Simply put , repression happens when a person’s thoughts, feelings, or desires are being subdued. Repression can happen internally and externally. For example, if a person goes through a traumatic accident, they may (consciously or subconsciously) choose to repress the memory of the accident itself. Likewise, if a person has wants or needs that society finds unacceptable, society can work to repress that individual. Women in the 19th century were often victims of repression. They were supposed to be demure, gentle, and passive—which often went against women’s personal desires. 

Given this, it becomes apparent that Louise Mallard is the victim of social repression. Until the moment of her husband’s supposed death, Louise does not feel free . In their marriage, Louise is repressed. Readers see this in the fact that Brently is moving around in the outside world, while Louise is confined to her home. Brently uses railroad transportation on his own, walks into his house of his own accord, and has individual possessions in the form of his briefcase and umbrella. Brently is even free from the knowledge of the train wreck upon his return home. Louise, on the other hand, is stuck at home by virtue of her position as a woman and her heart condition. 

Here, Chopin draws a strong contrast between what it means to be free for men and women. While freedom is just part of what it means to be a man in America, freedom for women looks markedly different. Louise’s life is shaped by what society believes a woman should be and how a wife should behave. Once Louise’s husband “dies,” however, she sees a way where she can start claiming some of the more “masculine” freedoms for herself. Chopin shows how deeply important freedom is to the life of a woman when, in the end, it’s not the shock of her husband’s return of her husband that kills Louise, but rather the thought of losing her freedom again.

Marriage as a “The Story of an Hour” theme is more than just an idyllic life spent with a significant other. The Mallard’s marriage shows a reality of 1890s life that was familiar to many people. Marriage was a means of social control —that is to say, marriage helped keep women in check and secure men’s social and political power. While husbands were usually free to wander the world on their own, hold jobs, and make important family decisions, wives (at least those of the upper class) were expected to stay at home and be domestic. 

Marriage in Louise Mallard’s case has very little love. She sees her marriage as a life-long bond in which she feels trapped, which readers see when she confesses that she loved her husband only “sometimes.” More to the point, she describes her marriage as a “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.” In other words, Louise Mallard feels injustice in the expectation that her life is dictated by the will of her husband.

Like the story, the marriages Kate witnessed often ended in an early or unexpected death. The women of her family, including Kate herself, all survived their husbands and didn’t remarry. While history tells us that Kate Chopin was happy in her marriage, she was aware that many women weren’t. By showing a marriage that had been built on control and society’s expectations, Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” highlights the need for a world that respected women as valuable partners in marriage as well as capable individuals.


While this painting by Johann Georg Meyer wasn't specifically of Louise Mallard, "Young Woman Looking Through a Window" is a depiction of what Louise might have looked like as she realized her freedom.

"The Story of an Hour" Characters

The best stories have developed characters, which is the case in “The Story of an Hour,” too. Five characters make up the cast of “The Story of an Hour”:

Louise Mallard

Brently mallard.

  • The doctor(s)

By exploring the details of each character, we can better understand their motivations, societal role, and purpose to the story.

From the opening sentence alone, we learn a lot about Louise Mallard. Chopin writes, “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband’s death.”

From that statement alone, we know that she is married, has a heart condition, and is likely to react strongly to bad news . We also know that the person who is sharing the bad news views Louise as delicate and sensitive. Throughout the next few paragraphs, we also learn that Louise is a housewife, which indicates that she would be part of the middle-to-upper class in the 1890s. Chopin also describes Louise’s appearance as “young,” “fair, calm face,” with lines of “strength.” These characteristics are not purely physical, but also bleed into her character throughout the story.

Louise’s personality is described as different from other women . While many women would be struck with the news in disbelief, Louise cries with “wild abandonment”—which shows how powerful her emotions are. Additionally, while other women would be content to mourn for longer, Louise quickly transitions from grief to joy about her husband’s passing.  

Ultimately, Chopin uses Louise’s character to show readers what a woman’s typical experience within marriage was in the 1890s. She uses Louise to criticize the oppressive and repressive nature of marriage, especially when Louise rejoices in her newfound freedom. 

Josephine is Louise’s sister . We never hear of Josephine’s last name or whether she is married or not. We do know that she has come with Richards, a friend of Brently’s, to break the news of his death to her sister. 

When Josephine tells Louise the bad news, she’s only able to tell Louise of Brently’s death in “veiled hints,” rather than telling her outright. Readers can interpret this as Josephine’s attempt at sparing Louise’s feelings. Josephine is especially worried about her sister’s heart condition, which we see in greater detail later as she warns Louise, “You will make yourself ill.” When Louise locks herself in her room, Josephine is desperate to make sure her sister is okay and begs Louise to let her in. 

Josephine is the key supporting character for Louise, helping her mourn, though she never knows that Louise found new freedom from her husband’s supposed death . But from Josephine’s actions and interactions with Louise, readers can accurately surmise that she cares for her sister (even if she’s unaware of how miserable Louise finds her life). 

Richards is another supporting character, though he is described as Brently’s friend, not Louise’s friend. It is Richards who finds out about Brently Mallard’s supposed death while at the newspaper office—he sees Brently’s name “leading the list of ‘killed.’” Richards’ main role in “The Story of an Hour” is to kick off the story’s plot. 

Additionally, Richard’s presence at the newspaper office suggests he’s a writer, editor, or otherwise employee of the newspaper (although Chopin leaves this to readers’ inferences). Richards takes enough care to double-check the news and to make sure that Brently’s likely dead. He also enlists Josephine’s help to break the news to Louise. He tries to get to Louise before a “less careful, less tender friend” can break the sad news to her, which suggests that he’s a thoughtful person in his own right. 

It’s also important to note is that Richards is aware of Louise’s heart condition, meaning that he knows Louise Mallard well enough to know of her health and how she is likely to bear grief. He appears again in the story at the very end, when he tries (and fails) to shield Brently from his wife’s view to prevent her heart from reacting badly. While Richards is a background character in the narrative, he demonstrates a high level of friendship, consideration, and care for Louise. 


Brently Mallard would have been riding in a train like this one when the accident supposedly occurred.

  Mr. Brently Mallard is the husband of the main character, Louise. We get few details about him, though readers do know he’s been on a train that has met with a serious accident. For the majority of the story, readers believe Brently Mallard is dead—though the end of “The Story of an Hour” reveals that he’s been alive all along. In fact, Brently doesn’t even know of the railroad tragedy when he arrives home “travel-stained.”

  Immediately after Louise hears the news of his death, she remembers him fondly. She remarks on his “kind, tender hands” and says that Brently “never looked save with love” upon her . It’s not so much Brently as it’s her marriage to him which oppresses Louise. While he apparently always loved Louise, Louise only “sometimes” loved Brently. She constantly felt that he “impose[d] a private will” upon her, as most husbands do their wives. And while she realizes that Brently likely did so without malice, she also realized that “a kind intention or a cruel intention” makes the repression “no less a crime.” 

Brently’s absence in the story does two things. First, it contrasts starkly with Louise’s life of illness and confinement. Second, Brently’s absence allows Louise to imagine a life of freedom outside of the confines of marriage , which gives her hope. In fact, when he appears alive and well (and dashes Louise’s hopes of freedom), she passes away. 

The Doctor(s)

Though the mention of them is brief, the final sentence of the story is striking. Chopin writes, “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of the joy that kills.” Just as she had no freedom in life, her liberation from the death of her husband is told as a joy that killed her.

In life as in death, the truth of Louise Mallard is never known. Everything the readers know about her delight in her newfound freedom happens in Louise’s own mind; she never gets the chance to share her secret joy with anyone else.

Consequently, the ending of the story is double-sided. If the doctors are to be believed, Louise Mallard was happy to see her husband, and her heart betrayed her. And outwardly, no one has any reason to suspect otherwise. Her reaction is that of a dutiful, delicate wife who couldn’t bear the shock of her husband returned from the grave. 

But readers can infer that Louise Mallard died of the grief of a freedom she never had , then found, then lost once more. Readers can interpret Louise’s death as her experience of true grief in the story—that for her ideal life, briefly realized then snatched away. 


In "The Story of an Hour," the appearance of hearts symbolize both repression and hope.

“The Story of an Hour” Symbolism and Motifs

  Symbols are any object, word, or other element that appear in the story and have additional meanings beyond. Motifs are elements from a story that gain meaning from being repeated throughout the narrative. The line between symbols and motifs is often hazy, but authors use both to help communicate their ideas and themes. 

  In “The Story of an Hour,” symbolism is everywhere, but the three major symbols present in the story are: 

  •   The heart
  • The house and the outdoors
  • Joy and sorrow

Heart disease, referred to as a “heart condition” within the text, opens and closes the text. The disease is the initial cause for everyone’s concern, since Louise’s condition makes her delicate. Later, heart disease causes Louise’s death upon Brently’s safe return. In this case, Louise’s ailing heart has symbolic value because it suggests to readers that her life has left her heartbroken. When she believes she’s finally found freedom, Louise prays for a long life...when just the day before, she’d “had thought with a shudder that life might be long.”

As Louise realizes her freedom, it’s almost as if her heart sparks back to life. Chopin writes, “Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously...she was striving to beat it back...Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.” These words suggest that, with her newfound freedom, the symptoms of her heart disease have lifted. Readers can surmise that Louise’s diseased heart is the result of being repressed, and hope brings her heart back to life. 

  Unfortunately, when Brently comes back, so does Louise’s heart disease. And, although her death is attributed to joy, the return of her (both symbolic and literal) heart disease kills her in the end. 


The House and the Outdoors

The second set of symbols are Louise’s house and the world she can see outside of her window. Chopin contrasts these two symbolic images to help readers better understand how marriage and repression have affected Louise. 

First of all, Louise is confined to the home—both within the story and in general. For her, however, her home isn’t a place to relax and feel comfortable. It’s more like a prison cell. All of the descriptions of the house reinforce the idea that it’s closed off and inescapable . For instance, the front door is locked when Mr. Mallard returns home. When Mrs. Mallard is overcome with grief, she goes deeper inside her house and locks herself in her room.

In that room, however, Mrs. Mallard takes note of the outdoors by looking out of her window.  Even in her momentary grief, she describes the “open square before her house” and “the new spring life.” The outdoors symbolize freedom in the story, so it’s no surprise that she realizes her newfound freedom as she looks out her window. Everything about the outside is free, beautiful, open, inviting, and pleasant...a stark contrast from the sadness inside the house . 

The house and its differences from outdoors serve as one of many symbols for how Louise feels about her marriage: barred from a world of independence.

Joy and Sorrow

  Finally, joy and sorrow are motifs that come at unexpected times throughout “The Story of an Hour.” Chopin juxtaposes joy and sorrow to highlight how tragedy releases Louise from her sorrow and gives her a joyous hope for the future. 

At first, sorrow appears as Louise mourns the death of her husband. Yet, in just a few paragraphs, she finds joy in the event as she discovers a life of her own. Though Louise is able to see that feeling joy at such an event is “monstrous,” she continues to revel in her happiness. 

  It is later that, when others expect her to be joyful, Josephine lets out a “piercing cry,” and Louise dies. Doctors interpret this as “the joy that kills,” but more likely it’s a sorrow that kills. The reversal of the “appropriate” feelings at each event reveals how counterintuitive the “self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being” is to the surrounding culture. This paradox reveals something staggering about Louise’s married life: she is so unhappy with her situation that grief gives her hope...and she dies when that hope is taken away. 

Key Takeaways: Kate Chopin's “The Story of an Hour” 

Analyzing Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” takes time and careful thought despite the shortness of the story. The story is open to multiple interpretations and has a lot to reveal about women in the 1890s, and many of the story’s themes, characters, and symbols critique women’s marriage roles during the period .

There’s a lot to dig through when it comes to “The Story of an Hour” analysis. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember a few things :

  • Events from Kate Chopin’s life and from social changes in the 1890s provided a strong basis for the story.
  • Mrs. Louise Mallard’s heart condition, house, and feelings represent deeper meanings in the narrative.
  • Louise goes from a state of repression, to freedom, and then back to repression, and the thought alone is enough to kill her.

Remembering the key plot points, themes, characters, and symbols will help you write any essay or participate in any discussion. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” has much more to uncover, so read it again, ask questions, and start exploring the story beyond the page!


What’s Next? 

You may have found your way to this article because analyzing literature can be tricky to master. But like any skill, you can improve with practice! First, make sure you have the right tools for the job by learning about literary elements. Start by mastering the 9 elements in every piece of literature , then dig into our element-specific guides (like this one on imagery and this one on personification .)

Another good way to start practicing your analytical skills is to read through additional expert guides like this one. Literary guides can help show you what to look for and explain why certain details are important. You can start with our analysis of Dylan Thomas’ poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” We also have longer guides on other words like The Great Gatsby and The Crucible , too.

If you’re preparing to take the AP Literature exam, it’s even more important that you’re able to quickly and accurately analyze a text . Don’t worry, though: we’ve got tons of helpful material for you. First, check out this overview of the AP Literature exam . Once you have a handle on the test, you can start practicing the multiple choice questions , and even take a few full-length practice tests . Oh, and make sure you’re ready for the essay portion of the test by checking out our AP Literature reading list!

author image

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

Student and Parent Forum

Our new student and parent forum, at , allow you to interact with your peers and the PrepScholar staff. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Ask questions; get answers.

Join the Conversation

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!

Improve With Our Famous Guides

  • For All Students

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 160+ SAT Points

How to Get a Perfect 1600, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 800 on Each SAT Section:

Score 800 on SAT Math

Score 800 on SAT Reading

Score 800 on SAT Writing

Series: How to Get to 600 on Each SAT Section:

Score 600 on SAT Math

Score 600 on SAT Reading

Score 600 on SAT Writing

Free Complete Official SAT Practice Tests

What SAT Target Score Should You Be Aiming For?

15 Strategies to Improve Your SAT Essay

The 5 Strategies You Must Be Using to Improve 4+ ACT Points

How to Get a Perfect 36 ACT, by a Perfect Scorer

Series: How to Get 36 on Each ACT Section:

36 on ACT English

36 on ACT Math

36 on ACT Reading

36 on ACT Science

Series: How to Get to 24 on Each ACT Section:

24 on ACT English

24 on ACT Math

24 on ACT Reading

24 on ACT Science

What ACT target score should you be aiming for?

ACT Vocabulary You Must Know

ACT Writing: 15 Tips to Raise Your Essay Score

How to Get Into Harvard and the Ivy League

How to Get a Perfect 4.0 GPA

How to Write an Amazing College Essay

What Exactly Are Colleges Looking For?

Is the ACT easier than the SAT? A Comprehensive Guide

Should you retake your SAT or ACT?

When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Stay Informed

the story of an hour critique essay

Get the latest articles and test prep tips!

Looking for Graduate School Test Prep?

Check out our top-rated graduate blogs here:

GRE Online Prep Blog

GMAT Online Prep Blog

TOEFL Online Prep Blog

Holly R. "I am absolutely overjoyed and cannot thank you enough for helping me!”

Things you buy through our links may earn Vox Media a commission.

Andrew Huberman’s Mechanisms of Control

The private and public seductions of the world’s biggest pop neuroscientist..

Portrait of Kerry Howley

This article was featured in One Great Story , New York ’s reading recommendation newsletter. Sign up here to get it nightly.

For the past three years, one of the biggest podcasters on the planet has told a story to millions of listeners across half a dozen shows: There was a little boy, and the boy’s family was happy, until one day, the boy’s family fell apart. The boy was sent away. He foundered, he found therapy, he found science, he found exercise. And he became strong.

Today, Andrew Huberman is a stiff, jacked 48-year-old associate professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He is given to delivering three-hour lectures on subjects such as “the health of our dopaminergic neurons.” His podcast is revelatory largely because it does not condescend, which has not been the way of public-health information in our time. He does not give the impression of someone diluting science to universally applicable sound bites for the slobbering masses. “Dopamine is vomited out into the synapse or it’s released volumetrically, but then it has to bind someplace and trigger those G-protein-coupled receptors, and caffeine increases the number, the density of those G-protein-coupled receptors,” is how he explains the effect of coffee before exercise in a two-hour-and-16-minute deep dive that has, as of this writing, nearly 8.9 million views on YouTube.

In This Issue

Falling for dr. huberman.


Millions of people feel compelled to hear him draw distinctions between neuromodulators and classical neurotransmitters. Many of those people will then adopt an associated “protocol.” They will follow his elaborate morning routine. They will model the most basic functions of human life — sleeping, eating, seeing — on his sober advice. They will tell their friends to do the same. “He’s not like other bro podcasters,” they will say, and they will be correct; he is a tenured Stanford professor associated with a Stanford lab; he knows the difference between a neuromodulator and a neurotransmitter. He is just back from a sold-out tour in Australia, where he filled the Sydney Opera House. Stanford, at one point, hung signs (AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY) apparently to deter fans in search of the lab.

With this power comes the power to lift other scientists out of their narrow silos and turn them, too, into celebrities, but these scientists will not be Huberman, whose personal appeal is distinct. Here we have a broad-minded professor puppyishly enamored with the wonders of biological function, generous to interviewees (“I love to be wrong”), engaged in endearing attempts to sound like a normal person (“Now, we all have to eat, and it’s nice to eat foods that we enjoy. I certainly do that. I love food, in fact”).

This is a world in which the soft art of self-care is made concrete, in which Goop-adjacent platitudes find solidity in peer review. “People go, ‘Oh, that feels kind of like weenie stuff,’” Huberman tells Joe Rogan. “The data show that gratitude, and avoiding toxic people and focusing on good-quality social interactions … huge increases in serotonin.” “Hmmm,” Rogan says. There is a kindness to the way Huberman reminds his audience always of the possibilities of neuroplasticity: They can change. He has changed. As an adolescent, he says, he endured the difficult divorce of his parents, a Stanford professor who worked in the tech industry and a children’s-book author. The period after the separation was, he says, one of “pure neglect.” His father was gone, his mother “totally checked out.” He was forced, around age 14, to endure a month of “youth detention,” a situation that was “not a jail,” but harrowing in its own right.

“The thing that really saved me,” Huberman tells Peter Attia, “was this therapy thing … I was like, Oh, shit … I do have to choke back a little bit here. It’s a crazy thing to have somebody say, ‘Listen,’ like, to give you the confidence, like, ‘We’re gonna figure this out. We’re gonna figure this out. ’ There’s something very powerful about that. It wasn’t like, you know, ‘Everything will be okay.’ It was like, We’re gonna figure this out. ”

The wayward son would devote himself to therapy and also to science. He would turn Rancid all the way up and study all night long. He would be tenured at Stanford with his own lab, severing optic nerves in mice and noting what grew back.

Huberman has been in therapy, he says, since high school. He has, in fact, several therapists, and psychiatrist Paul Conti appears on his podcast frequently to discuss mental health. Therapy is “hard work … like going to the gym and doing an effective workout.” The brain is a machine that needs tending. Our cells will benefit from the careful management of stress. “I love mechanism, ” says Huberman; our feelings are integral to the apparatus. There are Huberman Husbands (men who optimize), a phenomenon not to be confused with #DaddyHuberman (used by women on TikTok in the man’s thrall).

A prophet must constrain his self-revelation. He must give his story a shape that ultimately tends toward inner strength, weakness overcome. For Andrew Huberman to become your teacher and mine, as he very much was for a period this fall — a period in which I diligently absorbed sun upon waking, drank no more than once a week, practiced physiological sighs in traffic, and said to myself, out loud in my living room, “I also love mechanism”; a period during which I began to think seriously, for the first time in my life, about reducing stress, and during which both my husband and my young child saw tangible benefit from repeatedly immersing themselves in frigid water; a period in which I realized that I not only liked this podcast but liked other women who liked this podcast — he must be, in some way, better than the rest of us.

Huberman sells a dream of control down to the cellular level. But something has gone wrong. In the midst of immense fame, a chasm has opened between the podcaster preaching dopaminergic restraint and a man, with newfound wealth, with access to a world unseen by most professors. The problem with a man always working on himself is that he may also be working on you.

Some of Andrew’s earliest Instagram posts are of his lab. We see smiling undergraduates “slicing, staining, and prepping brains” and a wall of framed science publications in which Huberman-authored papers appear: Nature, Cell Reports, The Journal of Neuroscience. In 2019, under the handle @hubermanlab, Andrew began posting straightforward educational videos in which he talks directly into the camera about subjects such as the organizational logic of the brain stem. Sometimes he would talk over a simple anatomical sketch on lined paper; the impression was, as it is now, of a fast-talking teacher in conversation with an intelligent student. The videos amassed a fan base, and Andrew was, in 2020, invited on some of the biggest podcasts in the world. On Lex Fridman Podcast, he talked about experiments his lab was conducting by inducing fear in people. On The Rich Roll Podcast, the relationship between breathing and motivation. On The Joe Rogan Experience, experiments his lab was conducting on mice.

He was a fluid, engaging conversationalist, rich with insight and informed advice. In a year of death and disease, when many felt a sense of agency slipping away, Huberman had a gentle plan. The subtext was always the same: We may live in chaos, but there are mechanisms of control.

By then he had a partner, Sarah, which is not her real name. Sarah was someone who could talk to anyone about anything. She was dewy and strong and in her mid-40s, though she looked a decade younger, with two small kids from a previous relationship. She had old friends who adored her and no trouble making new ones. She came across as scattered in the way she jumped readily from topic to topic in conversation, losing the thread before returning to it, but she was in fact extremely organized. She was a woman who kept track of things. She was an entrepreneur who could organize a meeting, a skill she would need later for reasons she could not possibly have predicted. When I asked her a question in her home recently, she said the answer would be on an old phone; she stood up, left for only a moment, and returned with a box labeled OLD PHONES.

Sarah’s relationship with Andrew began in February 2018 in the Bay Area, where they both lived. He messaged her on Instagram and said he owned a home in Piedmont, a wealthy city separate from Oakland. That turned out not to be precisely true; he lived off Piedmont Avenue, which was in Oakland. He was courtly and a bit formal, as he would later be on the podcast. In July, in her garden, Sarah says she asked to clarify the depth of their relationship. They decided, she says, to be exclusive.

Both had devoted their lives to healthy living: exercise, good food, good information. They cared immoderately about what went into their bodies. Andrew could command a room and clearly took pleasure in doing so. He was busy and handsome, healthy and extremely ambitious. He gave the impression of working on himself; throughout their relationship, he would talk about “repair” and “healthy merging.” He was devoted to his bullmastiff, Costello, whom he worried over constantly: Was Costello comfortable? Sleeping properly? Andrew liked to dote on the dog, she says, and he liked to be doted on by Sarah. “I was never sitting around him,” she says. She cooked for him and felt glad when he relished what she had made. Sarah was willing to have unprotected sex because she believed they were monogamous.

On Thanksgiving in 2018, Sarah planned to introduce Andrew to her parents and close friends. She was cooking. Andrew texted repeatedly to say he would be late, then later. According to a friend, “he was just, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll be there. Oh, I’m going to be running hours late.’ And then of course, all of these things were planned around his arrival and he just kept going, ‘Oh, I’m going to be late.’ And then it’s the end of the night and he’s like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry this and this happened.’”

Huberman disappearing was something of a pattern. Friends, girlfriends, and colleagues describe him as hard to reach. The list of reasons for not showing up included a book, time-stamping the podcast, Costello, wildfires, and a “meetings tunnel.” “He is flaky and doesn’t respond to things,” says his friend Brian MacKenzie, a health influencer who has collaborated with him on breathing protocols. “And if you can’t handle that, Andrew definitely is not somebody you want to be close to.” “He in some ways disappeared,” says David Spiegel, a Stanford psychiatrist who calls Andrew “prodigiously smart” and “intensely engaging.” “I mean, I recently got a really nice email from him. Which I was touched by. I really was.”

In 2018, before he was famous, Huberman invited a Colorado-based investigative journalist and anthropologist, Scott Carney, to his home in Oakland for a few days; the two would go camping and discuss their mutual interest in actionable science. It had been Huberman, a fan of Carney’s book What Doesn’t Kill Us, who initially reached out, and the two became friendly over phone and email. Huberman confirmed Carney’s list of camping gear: sleeping bag, bug spray, boots.

When Carney got there, the two did not go camping. Huberman simply disappeared for most of a day and a half while Carney stayed home with Costello. He puttered around Huberman’s place, buying a juice, walking through the neighborhood, waiting for him to return. “It was extremely weird,” says Carney. Huberman texted from elsewhere saying he was busy working on a grant. (A spokesperson for Huberman says he clearly communicated to Carney that he went to work.) Eventually, instead of camping, the two went on a few short hikes.

Even when physically present, Huberman can be hard to track. “I don’t have total fidelity to who Andrew is,” says his friend Patrick Dossett. “There’s always a little unknown there.” He describes Andrew as an “amazing thought partner” with “almost total recall,” such a memory that one feels the need to watch what one says; a stray comment could surface three years later. And yet, at other times, “you’re like, All right, I’m saying words and he’s nodding or he is responding, but I can tell something I said sent him down a path that he’s continuing to have internal dialogue about, and I need to wait for him to come back. ”

Andrew Huberman declined to be interviewed for this story. Through a spokesman, Huberman says he did not become exclusive with Sarah until late 2021, that he was not doted on, that tasks between him and Sarah were shared “based on mutual agreement and proficiency,” that their Thanksgiving plans were tentative, and that he “maintains a very busy schedule and shows up to the vast majority of his commitments.”

In the fall of 2020, Huberman sold his home in Oakland and rented one in Topanga, a wooded canyon enclave contiguous with Los Angeles. When he came back to Stanford, he stayed with Sarah, and when he was in Topanga, Sarah was often with him.

When they fought, it was, she says, typically because Andrew would fixate on her past choices: the men she had been with before him, the two children she had had with another man. “I experienced his rage,” Sarah recalls, “as two to three days of yelling in a row. When he was in this state, he would go on until 11 or 12 at night and sometimes start again at two or three in the morning.”

The relationship struck Sarah’s friends as odd. At one point, Sarah said, “I just want to be with my kids and cook for my man.” “I was like, Who says that? ” says a close friend. “I mean, I’ve known her for 30 years. She’s a powerful, decisive, strong woman. We grew up in this very feminist community. That’s not a thing either of us would ever say.”

Another friend found him stressful to be around. “I try to be open-minded,” she said of the relationship. “I don’t want to be the most negative, nonsupportive friend just because of my personal observations and disgust over somebody.” When they were together, he was buzzing, anxious. “He’s like, ‘Oh, my dog needs his blanket this way.’ And I’m like, ‘Your dog is just laying there and super-cozy. Why are you being weird about the blanket?’”

Sarah was not the only person who experienced the extent of Andrew’s anger. In 2019, Carney sent Huberman materials from his then-forthcoming book, The Wedge, in which Huberman appears. He asked Huberman to confirm the parts in which he was mentioned. For months, Huberman did not respond. Carney sent a follow-up email; if Huberman did not respond, he would assume everything was accurate. In 2020, after months of saying he was too busy to review the materials, Huberman called him and, Carney says, came at him in a rage. “I’ve never had a source I thought was friendly go bananas,” says Carney. Screaming, Huberman threatened to sue and accused Carney of “violating Navy OpSec.”

It had become, by then, one of the most perplexing relationships of Carney’s life. That year, Carney agreed to Huberman’s invitation to swim with sharks on an island off Mexico. First, Carney would have to spend a month of his summer getting certified in Denver. He did, at considerable expense. Huberman then canceled the trip a day before they were set to leave. “I think Andrew likes building up people’s expectations,” says Carney, “and then he actually enjoys the opportunity to pull the rug out from under you.”

In January 2021, Huberman launched his own podcast. Its reputation would be directly tied to his role as teacher and scientist. “I’d like to emphasize that this podcast,” he would say every episode, with his particular combination of formality and discursiveness, “is separate from my teaching and research roles at Stanford. It is, however, part of my desire and effort to bring zero-cost-to-consumer information about science and science-related tools to the general public.”

“I remember feeling quite lonely and making some efforts to repair that,” Huberman would say on an episode in 2024. “Loneliness,” his interviewee said, “is a need state.” In 2021, the country was in the later stages of a need state: bored, alone, powerless. Huberman offered not only hours of educative listening but a plan to structure your day. A plan for waking. For eating. For exercising. For sleep. At a time when life had shifted to screens, he brought people back to their corporeal selves. He advised a “physiological sigh” — two short breaths in and a long one out — to reduce stress. He pulled countless people from their laptops and put them in rhythm with the sun. “Thank you for all you do to better humanity,” read comments on YouTube. “You may have just saved my life man.” “If Andrew were science teacher for everyone in the world,” someone wrote, “no one would have missed even a single class.”

Asked by Time last year for his definition of fun, Huberman said, “I learn and I like to exercise.” Among his most famous episodes is one in which he declares moderate drinking decidedly unhealthy. As MacKenzie puts it, “I don’t think anybody or anything, including Prohibition, has ever made more people think about alcohol than Andrew Huberman.” While he claims repeatedly that he doesn’t want to “demonize alcohol,” he fails to mask his obvious disapproval of anyone who consumes alcohol in any quantity. He follows a time-restricted eating schedule. He discusses constraint even in joy, because a dopamine spike is invariably followed by a drop below baseline; he explains how even a small pleasure like a cup of coffee before every workout reduces the capacity to release dopamine. Huberman frequently refers to the importance of “social contact” and “peace, contentment, and delight,” always mentioned as a triad; these are ultimately leveraged for the one value consistently espoused: physiological health.

In August 2021, Sarah says she read Andrew’s journal and discovered a reference to cheating. She was, she says, “gutted.” “I hear you are saying you are angry and hurt,” he texted her the same day. “I will hear you as much as long as needed for us.”

Andrew and Sarah wanted children together. Optimizers sometimes prefer not to conceive naturally; one can exert more control when procreation involves a lab. Sarah began the first of several rounds of IVF. (A spokesperson for Huberman denies that he and Sarah had decided to have children together, clarifying that they “decided to create embryos by IVF.”)

In 2021, she tested positive for a high-risk form of HPV, one of the variants linked to cervical cancer. “I had never tested positive,” she says, “and had been tested regularly for ten years.” (A spokesperson for Huberman says he has never tested positive for HPV. According to the CDC, there is currently no approved test for HPV in men.) When she brought it up, she says, he told her you could contract HPV from many things.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about truth-telling and deception,” Andrew told evolutionary psychologist David Buss on a November 2021 episode of Huberman Lab called “How Humans Select & Keep Romantic Partners in Short & Long Term.” They were talking about regularities across cultures in mate preferences.

“Could you tell us,” Andrew asked, “about how men and women leverage deception versus truth-telling and communicating some of the things around mate choice selection?”

“Effective tactics for men,” said a gravel-voiced, 68-year-old Buss, “are often displaying cues to long-term interest … men tend to exaggerate the depths of their feelings for a woman.”

“Let’s talk about infidelity in committed relationships,” Andrew said, laughing. “I’m guessing it does happen.”

“Men who have affairs tend to have affairs with a larger number of affair partners,” said Buss. “And so which then by definition can’t be long-lasting. You can’t,” added Buss wryly, “have the long-term affairs with six different partners.”

“Yeah,” said Andrew, “unless he’s, um,” and here Andrew looked into the distance. “Juggling multiple, uh, phone accounts or something of that sort.”

“Right, right, right, and some men try to do that, but I think it could be very taxing,” said Buss.

By 2022, Andrew was legitimately famous. Typical headlines read “I tried a Stanford professor’s top productivity routine” and “Google CEO Uses ‘Nonsleep Deep Rest’ to Relax.” Reese Witherspoon told the world that she was sure to get ten minutes of sunlight in the morning and tagged Andrew. When he was not on his own podcast, Andrew was on someone else’s. He kept the place in Topanga, but he and Sarah began splitting rent in Berkeley. In June 2022, they fully combined lives; Sarah relocated her family to Malibu to be with him.

According to Sarah, Andrew’s rage intensified with cohabitation. He fixated on her decision to have children with another man. She says he told her that being with her was like “bobbing for apples in feces.” “The pattern of your 11 years, while rooted in subconscious drives,” he told her in December 2021, “creates a nearly impossible set of hurdles for us … You have to change.”

Sarah was, in fact, changing. She felt herself getting smaller, constantly appeasing. She apologized, again and again and again. “I have been selfish, childish, and confused,” she said. “As a result, I need your protection.” A spokesperson for Huberman denies Sarah’s accounts of their fights, denies that his rage intensified with cohabitation, denies that he fixated on Sarah’s decision to have children with another man, and denies that he said being with her was like bobbing for apples in feces. A spokesperson said, “Dr. Huberman is very much in control of his emotions.”

The first three rounds of IVF did not produce healthy embryos. In the spring of 2022, enraged again about her past, Andrew asked Sarah to explain in detail what he called her bad choices, most especially having her second child. She wrote it out and read it aloud to him. A spokesperson for Huberman denies this incident and says he does not regard her having a second child as a bad choice.

I think it’s important to recognize that we might have a model of who someone is,” says Dossett, “or a model of how someone should conduct themselves. And if they do something that is out of sync with that model, it’s like, well, that might not necessarily be on that person. Maybe it’s on us. Our model was just off.”

Huberman’s specialty lies in a narrow field: visual-system wiring. How comfortable one feels with the science propagated on Huberman Lab depends entirely on how much leeway one is willing to give a man who expounds for multiple hours a week on subjects well outside his area of expertise. His detractors note that Huberman extrapolates wildly from limited animal studies, posits certainty where there is ambiguity, and stumbles when he veers too far from his narrow realm of study, but even they will tend to admit that the podcast is an expansive, free (or, as he puts it, “zero-cost”) compendium of human knowledge. There are quack guests, but these are greatly outnumbered by profound, complex, patient, and often moving descriptions of biological process.

Huberman Lab is premised on the image of a working scientist. One imagines clean white counters, rodents in cages, postdocs peering into microscopes. “As scientists,” Huberman says frequently. He speaks often, too, of the importance of mentorship. He “loves” reading teacher evaluations. On the web, one can visit the lab and even donate. I have never met a Huberman listener who doubted the existence of such a place, and this appears to be by design. In a glowing 2023 profile in Stanford magazine, we learn “Everything he does is inspired by this love,” but do not learn that Huberman lives 350 miles and a six-hour drive from Stanford University, making it difficult to drop into the lab. Compounding the issue is the fact that the lab, according to knowledgeable sources, barely exists.

“Is a postdoc working on her own funding, alone, a ‘lab?’” asks a researcher at Stanford. There had been a lab — four rooms on the second floor of the Sherman Fairchild Science Building. Some of them smelled of mice. It was here that researchers anesthetized rodents, injected them with fluorescence, damaged their optic nerves, and watched for the newly bright nerves to grow back.

The lab, says the researcher, was already scaling down before COVID. It was emptying out, postdocs apparently unsupervised, a quarter-million-dollar laser-scanning microscope gathering dust. Once the researcher saw someone come in and reclaim a $3,500 rocker, a machine for mixing solutions.

Shortly before publication, a spokesperson for Stanford said, “Dr. Huberman’s lab at Stanford is operational and is in the process of moving from the Department of Neurobiology to the Department of Ophthalmology,” and a spokesperson for Huberman says the equipment in Dr. Huberman’s lab remained in use until the last postdoc moved to a faculty position.

On every episode of his “zero-cost” podcast, Huberman gives a lengthy endorsement of a powder formerly known as Athletic Greens and now as AG1. It is one thing to hear Athletic Greens promoted by Joe Rogan; it is perhaps another to hear someone who sells himself as a Stanford University scientist just back from the lab proclaim that this $79-a-month powder “covers all of your foundational nutritional needs.” In an industry not noted for its integrity, AG1 is, according to writer and professional debunker Derek Beres, “one of the most egregious players in the space.” Here we have a powder that contains, according to its own marketing, 75 active ingredients, far more than the typical supplement, which would seem a selling point but for the inconveniences of mass. As performance nutritionist Adam McDonald points out, the vast number of ingredients indicates that each ingredient, which may or may not promote good health in a certain dose, is likely included in minuscule amounts, though consumers are left to do the math themselves; the company keeps many of the numbers proprietary. “We can be almost guaranteed that literally every supplement or ingredient within this proprietary blend is underdosed,” explains McDonald; the numbers, he says, don’t appear to add up to anything research has shown to be meaningful in terms of human health outcomes. And indeed, “the problem with most of the probiotics is they’re typically not concentrated enough to actually colonize,” one learns from Dr. Layne Norton in a November 2022 episode of Huberman Lab. (AG1 argues that probiotics are effective and that the 75 ingredients are “included not only for their individual benefit, but for the synergy between them — how ingredients interact in complex ways, and how combinations can lead to additive effects.”) “That’s the good news about podcasts,” Huberman said when Wendy Zukerman of Science Vs pointed out that her podcast would never make recommendations based on such tenuous research. “People can choose which podcast they want to listen to.”

Whenever Sarah had suspicions about Andrew’s interactions with another woman, he had a particular way of talking about the woman in question. She says he said the women were stalkers, alcoholics, and compulsive liars. He told her that one woman tore out her hair with chunks of flesh attached to it. He told her a story about a woman who fabricated a story about a dead baby to “entrap” him. (A spokesperson for Huberman denies the account of the denigration of women and the dead-baby story and says the hair story was taken out of context.) Most of the time, Sarah believed him; the women probably were crazy. He was a celebrity. He had to be careful.

It was in August 2022 that Sarah noticed she and Andrew could not go out without being thronged by people. On a camping trip in Washington State that same month, Sarah brought syringes and a cooler with ice packs. Every day of the trip, he injected the drugs meant to stimulate fertility into her stomach. This was round four.

Later that month, Sarah says she grabbed Andrew’s phone when he had left it in the bathroom, checked his texts, and found conversations with someone we will call Eve. Some of them took place during the camping trip they had just taken.

“Your feelings matter,” he told Eve on a day when he had injected his girlfriend with hCG. “I’m actually very much a caretaker.” And later: “I’m back on grid tomorrow and would love to see you this weekend.”

Caught having an affair, Andrew was apologetic. “The landscape has been incredibly hard,” he said. “I let the stress get to me … I defaulted to self safety … I’ve also sat with the hardest of feelings.” “I hear your insights,” he said, “and honestly I appreciate them.”

Sarah noticed how courteous he was with Eve. “So many offers,” she pointed out, “to process and work through things.”

Eve is an ethereally beautiful actress, the kind of woman from whom it is hard to look away. Where Sarah exudes a winsome chaotic energy, Eve is intimidatingly collected. Eve saw Andrew on Raya in 2020 and messaged him on Instagram. They went for a swim in Venice, and he complimented her form. “You’re definitely,” he said, “on the faster side of the distribution.” She found him to be an extraordinary listener, and she liked the way he appeared to be interested in her internal life. He was busy all the time: with his book, and eventually the podcast; his dog; responsibilities at Stanford. “I’m willing to do the repair work on this,” he said when she called him out for standing her up, or, “This sucks, but doesn’t deter my desire and commitment to see you, and establish clear lines of communication and trust.” Despite his endless excuses for not showing up, he seemed, to Eve, to be serious about deepening their relationship, which lasted on and off for two years. Eve had the impression that he was not seeing anyone else: She was willing to have unprotected sex.

As their relationship intensified over the years, he talked often about the family he one day wanted. “Our children would be amazing,” he said. She asked for book recommendations and he suggested, jokingly, Huberman: Why We Made Babies. “I’m at the stage of life where I truly want to build a family,” he told her. “That’s a resounding theme for me.” “How to mesh lives,” he said in a voice memo. “A fundamental question.” One time she heard him say, on Joe Rogan, that he had a girlfriend. She texted him to ask about it, and he responded immediately. He had a stalker, he said, and so his team had decided to invent a partner for the listening public. (“I later learned,” Eve tells me with characteristic equanimity, “that this was not true.”)

In September 2022, Eve noticed that Sarah was looking at her Instagram stories; not commenting or liking, just looking. Impulsively, Eve messaged her. “Is there anything you’d rather ask me directly?” she said. They set up a call. “Fuck you Andrew,” she messaged him.

Sarah moved out in August 2023 but says she remained in a committed relationship with Huberman. (A spokesperson for Huberman says they were separated.) At Thanksgiving that year, she noticed he was “wiggly” every time a cell phone came out at the table — trying to avoid, she suspected, being photographed. She says she did not leave him until December. According to Sarah, the relationship ended, as it had started, with a lie. He had been at her place for a couple of days and left for his place to prepare for a Zoom call; they planned to go Christmas shopping the next day. Sarah showed up at his house and found him on the couch with another woman. She could see them through the window. “If you’re going to be a cheater,” she advises me later, “do not live in a glass house.”

On January 11, a woman we’ll call Alex began liking all of Sarah’s Instagram posts, seven of them in a minute. Sarah messaged her: “I think you’re friends with my ex, Andrew Huberman. Are you one of the woman he cheated on me with?” Alex is an intense, direct, highly educated woman who lives in New York; she was sleeping with Andrew; and she had no idea there had been a girlfriend. “Fuck,” she said. “I think we should talk.” Over the following weeks, Sarah and Alex never stopped texting. “She helped me hold my boundary against him,” says Sarah, “keep him blocked. She said, ‘You need to let go of the idea of him.’” Instead of texting Andrew, Sarah texted Alex. Sometimes they just talked about their days and not about Andrew at all. Sarah still thought beautiful Eve, on the other hand, “might be crazy,” but they talked some more and brought her into the group chat. Soon there were others. There was Mary: a dreamy, charismatic Texan he had been seeing for years. Her friends called Andrew “bread crumbs,” given his tendency to disappear. There was a fifth woman in L.A., funny and fast-talking. Alex had been apprehensive; she felt foolish for believing Andrew’s lies and worried that the other women would seem foolish, therefore compounding her shame. Foolish women were not, however, what she found. Each of the five was assertive and successful and educated and sharp-witted; there had been a type, and they were diverse expressions of that type. “I can’t believe how crazy I thought you were,” Mary told Sarah. No one struck anyone else as a stalker. No one had made up a story about a dead baby or torn out hair with chunks in it. “I haven’t slept with anyone but him for six years,” Sarah told the group. “If it makes you feel any better,” Alex joked, “according to the CDC,” they had all slept with one another.

The women compared time-stamped screenshots of texts and assembled therein an extraordinary record of deception.

There was a day in Texas when, after Sarah left his hotel, Andrew slept with Mary and texted Eve. They found days in which he would text nearly identical pictures of himself to two of them at the same time. They realized that the day before he had moved in with Sarah in Berkeley, he had slept with Mary, and he had also been with her in December 2023, the weekend before Sarah caught him on the couch with a sixth woman.

They realized that on March 21, 2021, a day of admittedly impressive logistical jujitsu, while Sarah was in Berkeley, Andrew had flown Mary from Texas to L.A. to stay with him in Topanga. While Mary was there, visiting from thousands of miles away, he left her with Costello. He drove to a coffee shop, where he met Eve. They had a serious talk about their relationship. They thought they were in a good place. He wanted to make it work.

“Phone died,” he texted Mary, who was waiting back at the place in Topanga. And later, to Eve: “Thank you … For being so next, next, level gorgeous and sexy.”

“Sleep well beautiful,” he texted Sarah.

“The scheduling alone!” Alex tells me. “I can barely schedule three Zooms in a day.”

In the aggregate, Andrew’s therapeutic language took on a sinister edge. It was communicating a commitment that was not real, a profound interest in the internality of women that was then used to manipulate them.

“Does Huberman have vices?” asks an anonymous Reddit poster.

“I remember him saying,” reads the first comment, “that he loves croissants.”

While Huberman has been criticized for having too few women guests on his podcast, he is solicitous and deferential toward those he interviews. In a January 2023 episode, Dr. Sara Gottfried argues that “patriarchal messaging” and white supremacy contribute to the deterioration of women’s health, and Andrew responds with a story about how his beloved trans mentor, Ben Barres, had experienced “intense suppression/oppression” at MIT before transitioning. “Psychology is influencing biology,” he says with concern. “And you’re saying these power dynamics … are impacting it.”

In private, he could sometimes seem less concerned about patriarchy. Multiple women recall him saying he preferred the kind of relationship in which the woman was monogamous but the man was not. “He told me,” says Mary, “that what he wanted was a woman who was submissive, who he could slap in the ass in public, and who would be crawling on the floor for him when he got home.” (A spokesperson for Huberman denies this.) The women continued to compare notes. He had his little ways of checking in: “Good morning beautiful.” There was a particular way he would respond to a sexy picture: “Mmmmm hi there.”

A spokesperson for Huberman insisted that he had not been monogamous with Sarah until late 2021, but a recorded conversation he had with Alex suggested that in May of that year he had led Sarah to believe otherwise. “Well, she was under the impression that we were exclusive at that time,” he said. “Women are not dumb like that, dude,” Alex responded. “She was under that impression? Then you were giving her that impression.” Andrew agreed: “That’s what I meant. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to put it on her.”

The kind of women to whom Andrew Huberman was attracted; the kind of women who were attracted to him — these were women who paid attention to what went into their bodies, women who made avoiding toxicity a central focus of their lives. They researched non-hormone-disrupting products, avoided sugar, ate organic. They were disgusted by the knowledge that they had had sex with someone who had an untold number of partners. All of them wondered how many others there were. When Sarah found Andrew with the other woman, there had been a black pickup truck in the driveway, and she had taken a picture. The women traced the plates, but they hit a dead end and never found her.

Tell us about the dark triad,” he had said to Buss in November on the trip in which he slept with Mary.

“The dark triad consists of three personality characteristics,” said Buss. “So narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.” Such people “feign cooperation but then cheat on subsequent moves. They view other people as pawns to be manipulated for their own instrumental gains.” Those “who are high on dark-triad traits,” he said, “tend to be good at the art of seduction.” The vast majority of them were men.

Andrew told one of the women that he wasn’t a sex addict; he was a love addict. Addiction, Huberman says, “is a progressing narrowing of things that bring you joy.” In August 2021, the same month Sarah first learned of Andrew’s cheating, he released an episode with Anna Lembke, chief of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic. Lembke, the author of a book called Dopamine Nation, gave a clear explanation of the dopaminergic roots of addiction.

“What happens right after I do something that is really pleasurable,” she says, “and releases a lot of dopamine is, again, my brain is going to immediately compensate by downregulating my own dopamine receptors … And that’s that comedown, or the hangover or that aftereffect, that moment of wanting to do it more.” Someone who waits for the feeling to pass, she explained, will reregulate, go back to  baseline. “If I keep indulging again and again and again,” she said, “ultimately I have so much on the pain side that I’ve essentially reset my brain to what we call anhedonic or lacking-in-joy type of state, which is a dopamine deficit state.” This is a state in which nothing is enjoyable: “Everything sort of pales in comparison to this one drug that I want to keep doing.”

“Just for the record,” Andrew said, smiling, “Dr. Lembke has … diagnosed me outside the clinic, in a playful way, of being work addicted. You’re probably right!”

Lembke laughed. “You just happen to be addicted,” she said gently, “to something that is really socially rewarded.”

What he failed to understand, he said, was people who ruined their lives with their disease. “I like to think I have the compassion,” he said, “but I don’t have that empathy for taking a really good situation and what from the outside looks to be throwing it in the trash.”

At least three ex-girlfriends remain friendly with Huberman. He “goes deep very quickly,” says Keegan Amit, who dated Andrew from 2010 to 2017 and continues to admire him. “He has incredible emotional capacity.” A high-school girlfriend says both she and he were “troubled” during their time together, that he was complicated and jealous but “a good person” whom she parted with on good terms. “He really wants to get involved emotionally but then can’t quite follow through,” says someone he dated on and off between 2006 and 2010. “But yeah. I don’t think it’s …” She hesitates. “I think he has such a good heart.”

Andrew grew up in Palo Alto just before the dawn of the internet, a lost city. He gives some version of his origin story on The Rich Roll Podcast ; he repeats it for Tim Ferriss and Peter Attia. He tells Time magazine and Stanford magazine. “Take the list of all the things a parent shouldn’t do in a divorce,” he recently told Christian bowhunter Cameron Hanes. “They did them all.” “You had,” says Wendy Zukerman in her bright Aussie accent, “a wayward childhood.” “I think it’s very easy for people listening to folks with a bio like yours,” says Tim Ferriss, “to sort of assume a certain trajectory, right? To assume that it has always come easy.” His father and mother agree that “after our divorce was an incredibly hard time for Andrew,” though they “do not agree” with some of his characterization of his past; few parents want to be accused of “pure neglect.”

Huberman would not provide the name of the detention center in which he says he was held for a month in high school. In a version of the story Huberman tells on Peter Attia’s podcast, he says, “We lost a couple of kids, a couple of kids killed themselves while we were there.” ( New York was unable to find an account of this event.)

Andrew attended Gunn, a high-performing, high-pressure high school. Classmates describe him as always with a skateboard; they remember him as pleasant, “sweet,” and not particularly academic. He would, says one former classmate, “drop in on the half-pipe,” where he was “encouraging” to other skaters. “I mean, he was a cool, individual kid,” says another classmate. “There was one year he, like, bleached his hair and everyone was like, ‘Oh, that guy’s cool.’” It was a wealthy place, the kind of setting where the word au pair comes up frequently, and Andrew did not stand out to his classmates as out of control or unpredictable. They do not recall him getting into street fights, as Andrew claims he did. He was, says Andrew’s father, “a little bit troubled, yes, but it was not something super-serious.”

What does seem certain is that in his adolescence, Andrew became a regular consumer of talk therapy. In therapy, one learns to tell stories about one’s experience. A story one could tell is: I overcame immense odds to be where I am. Another is: The son of a Stanford professor, born at Stanford Hospital, grows up to be a Stanford professor.

I have never,” says Amit, “met a man more interested in personal growth.” Andrew’s relationship to therapy remains intriguing. “We were at dinner once,” says Eve, “and he told me something personal, and I suggested he talk to his therapist. He laughed it off like that wasn’t ever going to happen, so I asked him if he lied to his therapist. He told me he did all the time.” (A spokesperson for Huberman denies this.)

“People high on psychopathy are good at deception,” says Buss. “I don’t know if they’re good at self-deception.” With repeated listening to the podcast, one discerns a man undergoing, in public, an effort to understand himself. There are hours of talking about addiction, trauma, dopamine, and fear. Narcissism comes up consistently. One can see attempts to understand and also places where those attempts swerve into self-indulgence. On a recent episode with the Stanford-trained psychiatrist Paul Conti, Andrew and Conti were describing the psychological phenomenon of “aggressive drive.” Andrew had an example to share: He once canceled an appointment with a Stanford colleague. There was no response. Eventually, he received a reply that said, in Andrew’s telling, “Well, it’s clear that you don’t want to pursue this collaboration.”

Andrew was, he said to Conti, “shocked.”

“I remember feeling like that was pretty aggressive,” Andrew told Conti. “It stands out to me as a pretty salient example of aggression.”

“So to me,” said Huberman, “that seems like an example of somebody who has a, well, strong aggressive drive … and when disappointed, you know, lashes back or is passive.”

“There’s some way in which the person doesn’t feel good enough no matter what this person has achieved. So then there is a sense of the need and the right to overcontrol.”

“Sure,” said Huberman.

“And now we’re going to work together, right, so I’m exerting significant control over you, right? And it may be that he’s not aware of it.”

“In this case,” said Andrew, “it was a she.”

This woman, explained Conti, based entirely on Andrew’s description of two emails, had allowed her unhealthy “excess aggression” to be “eclipsing the generative drive.” She required that Andrew “bowed down before” her “in the service of the ego” because she did not feel good about herself.

This conversation extends for an extraordinary nine minutes, both men egging each other on, diagnosis after diagnosis, salient, perhaps, for reasons other than those the two identify. We learn that this person lacks gratitude, generative drive, and happiness; she suffers from envy, low “pleasure drive,” and general unhappiness. It would appear, at a distance, to be an elaborate fantasy of an insane woman built on a single behavior: At some point in time, a woman decided she did not want to work with a man who didn’t show up.

There is an argument to be made that it does not matter how a helpful podcaster conducts himself outside of the studio. A man unable to constrain his urges may still preach dopaminergic control to others. Morning sun remains salutary. The physiological sigh, employed by this writer many times in the writing of this essay, continues to effect calm. The large and growing distance between Andrew Huberman and the man he continues to be may not even matter to those who buy questionable products he has recommended and from which he will materially benefit, or listeners who imagined a man in a white coat at work in Palo Alto. The people who definitively find the space between fantasy and reality to be a problem are women who fell for a podcaster who professed deep, sustained concern for their personal growth, and who, in his skyrocketing influence, continued to project an image of earnest self-discovery. It is here, in the false belief of two minds in synchronicity and exploration, that deception leads to harm. They fear it will lead to more.

“There’s so much pain,” says Sarah, her voice breaking. “Feeling we had made mistakes. We hadn’t been enough. We hadn’t been communicating. By making these other women into the other, I hadn’t really given space for their hurt. And let it sink in with me that it was so similar to my own hurt.”

Three of the women on the group text met up in New York in February, and the group has only grown closer. On any given day, one of the five can go into an appointment and come back to 100 texts. Someone shared a Reddit thread in which a commenter claimed Huberman had a “stable full a hoes,” and another responded, “I hope he thinks of us more like Care Bears,” at which point they assigned themselves Care Bear names. “Him: You’re the only girl I let come to my apartment,” read a meme someone shared; under it was a yellow lab looking extremely skeptical. They regularly use Andrew’s usual response to explicit photos (“Mmmmm”) to comment on pictures of one another’s pets. They are holding space for other women who might join.

“This group has radicalized me,” Sarah tells me. “There has been so much processing.” They are planning a weekend together this summer.

“It could have been sad or bitter,” says Eve. “We didn’t jump in as besties, but real friendships have been built. It has been, in a strange and unlikely way, quite a beautiful experience.”

Additional reporting by Amelia Schonbek and Laura Thompson.

  • remove interruptions
  • newsletter pick
  • andrew huberman
  • new york magazine
  • one great story
  • audio article

Most Viewed Stories

  • Andrew Huberman’s Mechanisms of Control  
  • Have We Already Found Alien Life?
  • Trump vs. Biden Polls: Joe Has Finally Stopped the Bleeding
  • Is Trump Really Making Big Gains With Black and Latino Voters?
  • How Did a College Hooper Become Diddy’s Alleged Drug Mule?
  • Who’s the Trump VP Pick? Latest Odds for Every Shortlist Candidate.

Editor’s Picks

the story of an hour critique essay

Most Popular

  • Andrew Huberman’s Mechanisms of Control   By Kerry Howley
  • Have We Already Found Alien Life? By Jeff Wise
  • Trump vs. Biden Polls: Joe Has Finally Stopped the Bleeding By Ed Kilgore
  • Is Trump Really Making Big Gains With Black and Latino Voters? By Ed Kilgore
  • How Did a College Hooper Become Diddy’s Alleged Drug Mule? By Matt Stieb
  • Who’s the Trump VP Pick? Latest Odds for Every Shortlist Candidate. By Margaret Hartmann

the story of an hour critique essay

What is your email?

This email will be used to sign into all New York sites. By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy and to receive email correspondence from us.

Sign In To Continue Reading

Create your free account.

Password must be at least 8 characters and contain:

  • Lower case letters (a-z)
  • Upper case letters (A-Z)
  • Numbers (0-9)
  • Special Characters (!@#$%^&*)

As part of your account, you’ll receive occasional updates and offers from New York , which you can opt out of anytime.

Find anything you save across the site in your account

The Forgotten History of Hitler’s Establishment Enablers

By Adam Gopnik

A blackandwhite collage of photographs of Adolf Hitler making various gestures.

Hitler is so fully imagined a subject—so obsessively present on our televisions and in our bookstores—that to reimagine him seems pointless. As with the Hollywood fascination with Charles Manson , speculative curiosity gives retrospective glamour to evil. Hitler created a world in which women were transported with their children for days in closed train cars and then had to watch those children die alongside them, naked, gasping for breath in a gas chamber. To ask whether the man responsible for this was motivated by reading Oswald Spengler or merely by meeting him seems to attribute too much complexity of purpose to him, not to mention posthumous dignity. Yet allowing the specifics of his ascent to be clouded by disdain is not much better than allowing his memory to be ennobled by mystery.

So the historian Timothy W. Ryback’s choice to make his new book, “ Takeover: Hitler’s Final Rise to Power ” (Knopf), an aggressively specific chronicle of a single year, 1932, seems a wise, even an inspired one. Ryback details, week by week, day by day, and sometimes hour by hour, how a country with a functional, if flawed, democratic machinery handed absolute power over to someone who could never claim a majority in an actual election and whom the entire conservative political class regarded as a chaotic clown with a violent following. Ryback shows how major players thought they could find some ulterior advantage in managing him. Each was sure that, after the passing of a brief storm cloud, so obviously overloaded that it had to expend itself, they would emerge in possession of power. The corporate bosses thought that, if you looked past the strutting and the performative antisemitism, you had someone who would protect your money. Communist ideologues thought that, if you peered deeply enough into the strutting and the performative antisemitism, you could spy the pattern of a popular revolution. The decent right thought that he was too obviously deranged to remain in power long, and the decent left, tempered by earlier fights against different enemies, thought that, if they forcibly stuck to the rule of law, then the law would somehow by itself entrap a lawless leader. In a now familiar paradox, the rational forces stuck to magical thinking, while the irrational ones were more logical, parsing the brute equations of power. And so the storm never passed. In a way, it still has not.

Podcast: The New Yorker Radio Hour Adam Gopnik considers Hitler’s rise to power.

Ryback’s story begins soon after Hitler’s very incomplete victory in the Weimar Republic’s parliamentary elections of July, 1932. Hitler’s party, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (its German initials were N.S.D.A.P.), emerged with thirty-seven per cent of the vote, and two hundred and thirty out of six hundred and eight seats in the Reichstag, the German parliament—substantially ahead of any of its rivals. In the normal course of events, this would have led the aging warrior Paul von Hindenburg, Germany’s President, to appoint Hitler Chancellor. The equivalent of Prime Minister in other parliamentary systems, the Chancellor was meant to answer to his party, to the Reichstag, and to the President, who appointed him and who could remove him. Yet both Hindenburg and the sitting Chancellor, Franz von Papen, had been firm never-Hitler men, and naïvely entreated Hitler to recognize his own unsuitability for the role.

The Best Books of 2024

Read our reviews of the year’s notable new fiction and nonfiction.

The N.S.D.A.P. had been in existence since right after the Great War, as one of many völkisch , or populist, groups; its label, by including “national” and “socialist,” was intended to appeal to both right-wing nationalists and left-wing socialists, who were thought to share a common enemy: the élite class of Jewish bankers who, they said, manipulated Germany behind the scenes and had been responsible for the German surrender. The Nazis, as they were called—a put-down made into a popular label, like “Impressionists”—began as one of many fringe and populist antisemitic groups in Germany, including the Thule Society, which was filled with bizarre pre- QAnon conspiracy adepts. Hitler, an Austrian corporal with a toothbrush mustache (when Charlie Chaplin first saw him in newsreels, he assumed Hitler was aping his Little Tramp character), had seized control of the Party in 1921. Then a failed attempt at a putsch in Munich, in 1923, left him in prison, but with many comforts, much respect, and paper and time with which to write his memoir, “Mein Kampf.” He reëmerged as the leader of all the nationalists fighting for election, with an accompanying paramilitary organization, the Sturmabteilung (S.A.), under the direction of the more or less openly homosexual Ernst Röhm, and a press office, under the direction of Joseph Goebbels. (In the American style, the press office recognized the political significance of the era’s new technology and social media, exploiting sound recordings, newsreels, and radio, and even having Hitler campaign by airplane.) Hitler’s plans were deliberately ambiguous, but his purposes were not. Ever since his unsuccessful putsch in Munich, he had, Ryback writes, “been driven by a single ambition: to destroy the political system that he held responsible for the myriad ills plaguing the German people.”

Ryback skips past the underlying mechanics of the July, 1932, election on the way to his real subject—Hitler’s manipulation of the conservative politicians and tycoons who thought that they were manipulating him—but there’s a notable academic literature on what actually happened when Germans voted that summer. The political scientists and historians who study it tell us that the election was a “normal” one, in the sense that the behavior of groups and subgroups proceeded in the usual way, responding more to the perception of political interests than to some convulsions of apocalyptic feeling.

The popular picture of the decline of the Weimar Republic—in which hyperinflation produced mass unemployment, which produced an unstoppable wave of fascism—is far from the truth. The hyperinflation had ended in 1923, and the period right afterward, in the mid-twenties, was, in Germany as elsewhere, golden. The financial crash of 1929 certainly energized the parties of the far left and the far right. Still, the results of the July, 1932, election weren’t obviously catastrophic. The Nazis came out as the largest single party, but both Hitler and Goebbels were bitterly disappointed by their standing. The unemployed actually opposed Hitler and voted en masse for the parties of the left. Hitler won the support of self-employed people, who were in decent economic shape but felt that their lives and livelihoods were threatened; of rural Protestant voters; and of domestic workers (still a sizable group), perhaps because they felt unsafe outside a rigid hierarchy. What was once called the petite bourgeoisie, then, was key to his support—not people feeling the brunt of economic precarity but people feeling the possibility of it. Having nothing to fear but fear itself is having something significant to fear.

It was indeed a “normal” election in that respect, responding not least to the outburst of “normal” politics with which Hitler had littered his program: he had, in the months beforehand, damped down his usual ranting about Jews and bankers and moneyed élites and the rest. He had recorded a widely distributed phonograph album (the era’s equivalent of a podcast) designed to make him seem, well, Chancellor-ish. He emphasized agricultural support and a return to better times, aiming, as Ryback writes, “to bridge divides of class and conscience, socialism and nationalism.” By the strange alchemy of demagoguery, a brief visit to the surface of sanity annulled years and years of crazy.

The Germans were voting, in the absent-minded way of democratic voters everywhere, for easy reassurances, for stability, with classes siding against their historical enemies. They weren’t wild-eyed nationalists voting for a millennial authoritarian regime that would rule forever and restore Germany to glory, and, certainly, they weren’t voting for an apocalyptic nightmare that would leave tens of millions of people dead and the cities of Germany destroyed. They were voting for specific programs that they thought would benefit them, and for a year’s insurance against the people they feared.

Ryback spends most of his time with two pillars of respectable conservative Germany, General Kurt von Schleicher and the right-wing media magnate Alfred Hugenberg. Utterly contemptuous of Hitler as a lazy buffoon—he didn’t wake up until eleven most mornings and spent much of his time watching and talking about movies—the two men still hated the Communists and even the center-left Social Democrats more than they did anyone on the right, and they spent most of 1932 and 1933 scheming to use Hitler as a stalking horse for their own ambitions.

Schleicher is perhaps first among Ryback’s too-clever-for-their-own-good villains, and the book presents a piercingly novelistic picture of him. Though in some ways a classic Prussian militarist, Schleicher, like so many of the German upper classes, was also a cultivated and cosmopolitan bon vivant, whom the well-connected journalist and diarist Bella Fromm called “a man of almost irresistible charm.” He was a character out of a Jean Renoir film, the regretful Junker caught in modern times. He had no illusions about Hitler (“What am I to do with that psychopath?” he said after hearing about his behavior), but, infinitely ambitious, he thought that Hitler’s call for strongman rule might awaken the German people to the need for a real strongman, i.e., Schleicher. Ryback tells us that Schleicher had a strategy he dubbed the Zähmungsprozess , or “taming process,” which was meant to sideline the radicals of the Nazi Party and bring the movement into mainstream politics. He publicly commended Hitler as a “modest, orderly man who only wants what is best” and who would follow the rule of law. He praised Hitler’s paramilitary troops, too, defending them against press reports of street violence. In fact, as Ryback explains, the game plan was to have the Brown Shirts crush the forces of the left—and then to have the regular German Army crush the Brown Shirts.

Schleicher imagined himself a master manipulator of men and causes. He liked to play with a menagerie of glass animal figurines on his desk, leaving the impression that lesser beings were mere toys to be handled. In June of 1932, he prevailed on Hindenburg to give the Chancellorship to Papen, a weak politician widely viewed as Schleicher’s puppet; Papen, in turn, installed Schleicher as minister of defense. Then they dissolved the Reichstag and held those July elections which, predictably, gave the Nazis a big boost.

Ryback spends many mordant pages tracking Schleicher’s whirling-dervish intrigues, as he tried to realize his fantasy of the Zähmungsprozess . Many of these involved schemes shared with the patriotic and staunchly anti-Nazi General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord (familiar to viewers of “Babylon Berlin” as Major General Seegers). Hammerstein was one of the few German officers to fully grasp Hitler’s real nature. At a meeting with Hitler in the spring of 1932, Hammerstein told him bluntly, “Herr Hitler, if you achieve power legally, that would be fine with me. If the circumstances are different, I will use arms.” He later felt reassured when Hindenburg intimated that, if the Nazi paramilitary troops acted, he could order the Army to fire on them.

Yet Hammerstein remained impotent. At various moments, Schleicher, as the minister of defense, entertained what was in effect a plan for imposing martial law with himself in charge and Hammerstein at his side. In retrospect, it was the last hope of protecting the republic from Hitler—but after President Hindenburg rejected it, not out of democratic misgivings but out of suspicion of Schleicher’s purposes, Hammerstein, an essentially tragic figure, was unable to act alone. He suffered from a malady found among decent military men suddenly thrust into positions of political power: his scruples were at odds with his habits of deference to hierarchy. Generals became generals by learning to take orders before they learned how to give them. Hammerstein hated Hitler, but he waited for someone else of impeccable authority to give a clear direction before he would act. (He went on waiting right through the war, as part of the equally impotent military nexus that wanted Hitler dead but, until it was too late, lacked the will to kill him.)

The extra-parliamentary actions that were fleetingly contemplated in the months after the election—a war in the streets, or, more likely, a civil confrontation leading to a military coup—seemed horrific. The trouble, unknowable to the people of the time, is that, since what did happen is the worst thing that has ever happened, any alternative would have been less horrific. One wants to shout to Hammerstein and his cohorts, Go ahead, take over the government! Arrest Hitler and his henchmen, rule for a few years, and then try again. It won’t be as bad as what happens next. But, of course, they cannot hear us. They couldn’t have heard us then.

Ryback’s gift for detail joins with a nice feeling for the black comedy of the period. He makes much sport of the attempts by foreign journalists resident in Germany, particularly the New York Times’ Frederick T. Birchall, to normalize the Nazi ascent—with Birchall continually assuring his readers that Hitler, an out-of-his-depth simpleton, was not the threat he seemed to be, and that the other conservatives were far more potent in their political maneuvering. When Papen made a speech denying that Hitler’s paramilitary forces represented “the German nation,” Birchall wrote that the speech “contained dynamite enough to change completely the political situation in the Reich.” On another occasion, Birchall wrote that “the Hitlerites” were deluded to think they “hold the best cards”; there was every reason to think that “the big cards, the ones that will really decide the game,” were in the hands of people such as Papen, Hindenburg, and, “above all,” Schleicher.

Ryback, focussing on the self-entrapped German conservatives, generally avoids the question that seems most obvious to a contemporary reader: Why was a coalition between the moderate-left Social Democrats and the conservative but far from Nazified Catholic Centrists never even seriously attempted? Given that Hitler had repeatedly vowed to use the democratic process in order to destroy democracy, why did the people committed to democracy let him do it?

Many historians have jousted with this question, but perhaps the most piercing account remains an early one, written less than a decade after the war by the émigré German scholar Lewis Edinger, who had known the leaders of the Social Democrats well and consulted them directly—the ones who had survived, that is—for his study. His conclusion was that they simply “trusted that constitutional processes and the return of reason and fair play would assure the survival of the Weimar Republic and its chief supporters.” The Social Democratic leadership had become a gerontocracy, out of touch with the generational changes beneath them. The top Social Democratic leaders were, on average, two decades older than their Nazi counterparts.

Whales at a party complain about the lack of space.

Link copied

Worse, the Social Democrats remained in the grip of a long struggle with Bismarckian nationalism, which, however oppressive it might have been, still operated with a broad idea of legitimacy and the rule of law. The institutional procedures of parliamentarianism had always seen the Social Democrats through—why would those procedures not continue to protect them? In a battle between demagoguery and democracy, surely democracy had the advantage. Edinger writes that Karl Kautsky, among the most eminent of the Party’s theorists, believed that after the election Hitler’s supporters would realize he was incapable of fulfilling his promises and drift away.

The Social Democrats may have been hobbled, too, by their commitment to team leadership—which meant that no single charismatic individual represented them. Proceduralists and institutionalists by temperament and training, they were, as Edinger demonstrates, unable to imagine the nature of their adversary. They acceded to Hitler’s ascent with the belief that by respecting the rules themselves they would encourage the other side to play by them as well. Even after Hitler consolidated his power, he was seen to have secured the Chancellorship by constitutional means. Edinger quotes Arnold Brecht, a fellow exiled statesman: “To rise against him on the first night would make the rebels the technical violators of the Constitution that they wanted to defend.”

Meanwhile, the centrist Catholics—whom Hitler shrewdly recognized as his most formidable potential adversaries—were handicapped in any desire to join with the Democratic Socialists by their fear of the Communists. Though the Communists had previously made various alliances of convenience with the Social Democrats, by 1932 they were tightly controlled by Stalin, who had ordered them to depict the Social Democrats as being as great a threat to the working class as Hitler.

And, when a rumor spread that Hitler had once spat out a Communion Host, it only made him more popular among Catholics, since it called attention to his Catholic upbringing. Indeed, most attempts to highlight Hitler’s personal depravities (including his possibly sexual relationship with his niece Geli, which was no secret in the press of the time; her apparent suicide, less than a year before the election, had been a tabloid scandal) made him more popular. In any case, Hitler was skilled at reassuring the Catholic center, promising to be “the strong protector of Christianity as the basis of our common moral order.”

Hitler’s hatred of parliamentary democracy, even more than his hatred of Jews, was central to his identity, Ryback emphasizes. Antisemitism was a regular feature of populist politics in the region: Hitler had learned much of it in his youth from the Vienna mayor Karl Lueger. But Lueger was a genuine populist democrat, who brought universal male suffrage to the city. Hitler’s originality lay elsewhere. “Unlike Hitler’s anti-Semitism, a toxic brew of pseudoscientific readings and malignant mentoring, Hitler’s hatred of the Weimar Republic was the result of personal observation of political processes,” Ryback writes. “He hated the haggling and compromise of coalition politics inherent in multiparty political systems.”

Second only to Schleicher in Ryback’s accounting of Hitler’s establishment enablers is the media magnate Alfred Hugenberg. The owner of the country’s leading film studio and of the national news service, which supplied some sixteen hundred newspapers, he was far from an admirer. He regarded Hitler as manic and unreliable but found him essential for the furtherance of their common program, and was in and out of political alliance with him during the crucial year.

Hugenberg had begun constructing his media empire in the late nineteen-teens, in response to what he saw as the bias against conservatives in much of the German press, and he shared Hitler’s hatred of democracy and of the Jews. But he thought of himself as a much more sophisticated player, and intended to use his control of modern media in pursuit of what he called a Katastrophenpolitik —a “catastrophe politics” of cultural warfare, in which the strategy, Ryback says, was to “flood the public space with inflammatory news stories, half-truths, rumors, and outright lies.” The aim was to polarize the public, and to crater anything like consensus. Hugenberg gave Hitler money as well as publicity, but Hugenberg had his own political ambitions (somewhat undermined by a personal aura described by his nickname, der Hamster) and his own party, and Hitler was furiously jealous of the spotlight. While giving Hitler support in his media—a support sometimes interrupted by impatience—Hugenberg urged him to act rationally and settle for Nazi positions in the cabinet if he could not have the Chancellorship.

What strengthened the Nazis throughout the conspiratorial maneuverings of the period was certainly not any great display of discipline. The Nazi movement was a chaotic mess of struggling in-groups who feared and despised one another. Hitler rightly mistrusted the loyalty even of his chief lieutenant, Gregor Strasser, who fell on the “socialist” side of the National Socialists label. The members of the S.A., the Storm Troopers, meanwhile, were loyal mainly to their own leader, Ernst Röhm, and embarrassed Hitler with their run of sexual scandals. The N.S.D.A.P. was a hive of internal antipathies that could resolve only in violence—a condition that would endure to the last weeks of the war, when, standing amid the ruins of Germany, Hitler was enraged to discover that Heinrich Himmler was trying to negotiate a separate peace with the Western Allies.

The strength of the Nazis lay, rather, in the curiously enclosed and benumbed character of their leader. Hitler was impossible to discourage, not because he ran an efficient machine but because he was immune to the normal human impediments to absolute power: shame, calculation, or even a desire to see a particular political program put in place. Hindenburg, knowing of Hitler’s genuinely courageous military service in the Great War, appealed in their meetings to his patriotism, his love of the Fatherland. But Hitler, an Austrian who did not receive German citizenship until shortly before the 1932 election, did not love the Fatherland. He ran on the hydrogen fuel of pure hatred. He did not want power in order to implement a program; he wanted power in order to realize his pain. A fascinating and once classified document, prepared for the precursor of the C.I.A. , the O.S.S., by the psychoanalyst Walter Langer, used first-person accounts to gauge the scale of Hitler’s narcissism: “It may be of interest to note at this time that of all the titles that Hitler might have chosen for himself he is content with the simple one of ‘Fuehrer.’ To him this title is the greatest of them all. He has spent his life searching for a person worthy of the role but was unable to find one until he discovered himself.” Or, as the acute Hungarian American historian John Lukacs, who spent a lifetime studying Hitler’s psychology, observed, “His hatred for his opponents was both stronger and less abstract than was his love for his people. That was (and remains) a distinguishing mark of the mind of every extreme nationalist.”

In November of 1932, one more Reichstag election was held. Once again, it was a bitter disappointment to Hitler and Goebbels—“a disaster,” as Goebbels declared on Election Night. (An earlier Presidential election had also reaffirmed Hindenburg over the Hitler movement.) The Nazi wave that everyone had expected failed to materialize. The Nazis lost seats, and, once again, they could not crack fifty per cent. The Times explained that the Hitler movement had passed its high-water mark, and that “the country is getting tired of the Nazis.” Everywhere, Ryback says, the cartoonists and editorialists delighted in Hitler’s discomfiture. One cartoonist showed him presiding over a graveyard of swastikas. In December of 1932, having lost three elections in a row, Hitler seemed to be finished.

The subsequent maneuverings are as dispiriting to read about as they are exhausting to follow. Basically, Schleicher conspired to have Papen fired as Chancellor by Hindenburg and replaced by himself. He calculated that he could cleave Gregor Strasser and the more respectable elements of the Nazis from Hitler, form a coalition with them, and leave Hitler on the outside looking in. But Papen, a small man in everything except his taste for revenge, turned on Schleicher in a rage and went directly to Hitler, proposing, despite his earlier never-Hitler views, that they form their own coalition. Schleicher’s plan to spirit Strasser away from Hitler and break the Nazi Party in two then stumbled on the reality that the real base of the Party was fanatically loyal only to its leader—and Strasser, knowing this, refused to leave the Party, even as he conspired with Schleicher to undermine it.

Then, in mid-January, a small regional election in Lipperland took place. Though the results were again disappointing for Hitler and Goebbels—the National Socialist German Workers’ Party still hadn’t surmounted the fifty-per-cent mark—they managed to sell the election as a kind of triumph. At Party meetings, Hitler denounced Strasser. The idea, much beloved by Schleicher and his allies, of breaking a Strasser wing of the Party off from Hitler became obviously impossible.

Hindenburg, in his mid-eighties and growing weak, became fed up with Schleicher’s Machiavellian stratagems and dispensed with him as Chancellor. Papen, dismissed not long before, was received by the President. He promised that he could form a working majority in the Reichstag by simple means: Hindenburg should go ahead and appoint Hitler Chancellor. Hitler, he explained, had made significant “concessions,” and could be controlled. He would want only the Chancellorship, and not more seats in the cabinet. What could go wrong? “You mean to tell me I have the unpleasant task of appointing this Hitler as the next Chancellor?” Hindenburg reportedly asked. He did. The conservative strategists celebrated their victory. “So, we box Hitler in,” Hugenberg said confidently. Papen crowed, “Within two months, we will have pressed Hitler into a corner so tight that he’ll squeak!”

“The big joke on democracy is that it gives its mortal enemies the tools to its own destruction,” Goebbels said as the Nazis rose to power—one of those quotes that sound apocryphal but are not. The ultimate fates of Ryback’s players are varied, and instructive. Schleicher, the conservative who saw right through Hitler’s weakness—who had found a way to entrap him, and then use him against the left—was killed by the S.A. during the Night of the Long Knives, in 1934, when Hitler consolidated his hold over his own movement by murdering his less loyal lieutenants. Strasser and Röhm were murdered then, too. Hitler and Goebbels, of course, died by their own hands in defeat, having left tens of millions of Europeans dead and their country in ruins. But Hugenberg, sidelined during the Third Reich, was exonerated by a denazification court in the years after the war. And Papen, who had ushered Hitler directly into power, was acquitted at Nuremberg ; in the nineteen-fifties, he was awarded the highest honorary order of the Catholic Church.

Does history have patterns or merely circumstances and unique contingencies? Certainly, the Germany of 1932 was a place unto itself. The truth, that some cycles may recur but inexactly, is best captured in that fine aphorism “History does not repeat itself, but it sometimes rhymes.” Appropriately, no historian is exactly sure who said this: widely credited to Mark Twain , it was more likely first said long after his death.

We see through a glass darkly, as patterns of authoritarian ambition seem to flash before our eyes: the demagogue made strong not by conviction but by being numb to normal human encouragements and admonitions; the aging center left; the media lords who want something like what the demagogue wants but in the end are controlled by him; the political maneuverers who think they can outwit the demagogue; the resistance and sudden surrender. Democracy doesn’t die in darkness. It dies in bright midafternoon light, where politicians fall back on familiarities and make faint offers to authoritarians and say a firm and final no—and then wake up a few days later and say, Well, maybe this time, it might all work out, and look at the other side! Precise circumstances never repeat, yet shapes and patterns so often recur. In history, it’s true, the same thing never happens twice. But the same things do. ♦

New Yorker Favorites

Why facts don’t change our minds .

How an Ivy League school turned against a student .

What was it about Frank Sinatra that no one else could touch ? 

The secret formula for resilience .

A young Kennedy, in Kushnerland, turned whistle-blower .

The biggest potential water disaster in the United States.

Fiction by Jhumpa Lahiri: “ Gogol .”

Sign up for our daily newsletter to receive the best stories from The New Yorker .

the story of an hour critique essay

Books & Fiction

By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement and Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement . This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

You Say You Want a Revolution. Do You Know What You Mean by That?

By Gideon Lewis-Kraus

Adam Gopnik on Hitler’s Rise to Power

By Benjamin Kunkel

Why We Can’t Stop Arguing About Whether Trump Is a Fascist

By Andrew Marantz

Serial Season 4

An illustration depicting life for workers and detainees at Guantánamo

“Serial” returns with a history of Guantánamo told by people who lived through key moments in Guantánamo’s evolution, who know things the rest of us don’t about what it’s like to be caught inside an improvised justice system.

Published March 21, 2024

Listen to and follow Serial Season 4

  • Apple Podcasts

the story of an hour critique essay

Listen to the trailer for Serial Season 4: Guantánamo.

Your browser doesn't support HTML5 audio. Try listening here.

Illustration of an American soldier barbecuing meat and holding a beer

“So, it felt very like college-like… Without it being… Obviously the next day wasn’t classes, it was Gitmo… ”

Poor baby raul, episode 1 — poor baby raul.

Illustration of a person standing on a beach in a blue uniform wearing a red head covering and sunglasses.

“I wanted to create a persona, a thing that was not human.”

The special project, episode 2 — the special project.

  • Episode 3 arrives April 4

About Serial Season 4

Right after Sept. 11, the United States created a brand-new criminal justice system at Guantánamo Bay. It was a prison and a court designed to deal with the people we had captured whom we suspected of being members of the Taliban or al Qaeda.

But to do what we wanted to do at Guantánamo — to interrogate detainees the way we wanted, to hold them indefinitely without charging them with a crime — we had to push aside the old, time-tested rules for detaining prisoners of war. And the consequences of that fell on ordinary people: thousands of military personnel, hundreds of prisoners, everybody scrambling through the same experiment.

There has been great journalism about the legal maneuvering to justify Guantánamo, and about the detainee abuse and the politics and policy. But “Serial” reporters Sarah Koenig and Dana Chivvis were after the inside stories, a picture of Guantánamo you could get only from the people who went through it. For years, though, all the best stories they heard about Guantánamo were off the record. But they stuck with it, figuring maybe once enough people were back in civilian life they’d be willing to tell those stories on the record. A couple of years ago, the “Serial” team started contacting people again: guards, interrogators, commanders, lawyers, chaplains, translators and former prisoners. More than a hundred people. And a remarkable number of them said: Okay, I’m ready. Here’s what happened.

“Serial” Season 4 is a history of Guantánamo told by people who lived through key moments in its evolution, who know things the rest of us don’t about what it’s like to be caught inside an improvised justice system.


  • Sofia degli Alessandri is an Italian composer based in London. Her music combines field recordings, synths, chamber instruments and electronic beats. She composes for film, television, dance and other media.
  • Hosts Sarah Koenig and Dana Chivvis Producer Jessica Weisberg Editor Julie Snyder Additional Reporting Cora Currier Fact Checking and Research Ben Phelan Additional Fact Checking Jessica Suriano Music supervision, sound design, and mixing Phoebe Wang Original score Sofia degli Alessandri Additional Editing David Kestenbaum, Jen Guerra, Alvin Melathe, Ellen Weiss and Ira Glass Contributing Editors Rozina Ali and Carol Rosenberg Assistant Producer Emma Grillo Translators and Interpreters Raza Sayibzada, Nael Hijjo, Atiq Rahin, Dana El-Issa, Bachar Alhalabi, and Omama Osman Art Direction Pablo Delcan Art Max Guther Standards Editor Susan Wessling Legal Review Al-Amyn Sumar and Maya Gandhi Reporting and Research Amir Khafagy and Sami Yousafazai Additional Production Daniel Guillemette and Katie Mingle Executive Assistant Mack Miller Supervising Producer Ndeye Thioubou Deputy Managing Editor Sam Dolnick
  • At the New York Times, thanks to Elizabeth Davis-Moorer, Nina Lassam, Susan Beachy, Kitty Bennett, Alain Delaquérière, Sheelagh McNeill, Kirsten Noyes, Jack Begg, Jeffrey Miranda, Colleen Wormsley, Peter Rentz, John-Michael Murphy, Jordan Cohen, Zoe Murphy, Pierre-Antoine Louis, Mahima Chablani, Kelly Doe, Anisha Muni, Kimmy Tsai, Victoria Kim, Ashka Gami, Brad Fisher, Maddy Masiello, Daniel Powell, Marion Lozano, Tug Wilson and Aisha Khan
  • Special thanks Katie Mingle, Jenelle Pifer, Alissa Shipp, Nadia Reiman, Anita Badejo, Katie Fuchs, Alison Beckman at the Center for Victims of Torture, Clive Stafford Smith, Alisa Dogramadzieva, Shuaib Almosawa, Mohamed Elfaki, Freshta Taeb, Edgar August, Esther Whitfield, Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, Mark Fallon, Pardiss Kebriaei, Steve Vladeck, Charlie Savage, Michelle Shephard, Bastian Berbner, John Goetz, Sarah Mirk and everyone involved in “Guantánamo Voices,” Peter Jan Honigsberg, Tim Golden, John Ryan, Stuart Couch, Shayana Kadidal, Ray Rivera, Steven Kleinman, Steve Wood and Lee Riffaterre


Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story — a true story — over the course of a season.

A high-school senior named Hae Min Lee disappeared one day after school in 1999, in Baltimore County, Maryland. A month later, her body was found in a city park. She'd been strangled. Her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested for the crime, and within a year, he was sentenced to life in prison.

In May 2014, a U.S. Special Operations team in a Black Hawk helicopter landed in the hills of Afghanistan. Waiting for them were more than a dozen Taliban fighters and a tall American, who looked pale and out of sorts: Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier, had been a prisoner of the Taliban for nearly five years, and now he was going home. Learn more

“Serial” is heading back to court. This time, in Cleveland. Not for one extraordinary case; instead, Serial wanted to tackle the whole criminal justice system. To do that we figured we’d need to look at something different: ordinary cases. So we did. Inside these ordinary cases we found the troubling machinery of the criminal justice system on full display. Learn more

serial productions

Serial Productions makes narrative podcasts that have transformed the medium. From the powerful forces shaping our public schools to a mystery at the heart of a scandal that rocked Britain, Serial expands the boundaries of audio investigative storytelling. Learn more

Further Reading From The Times

The guantánamo docket, a closer look at what the u.s. lets you see of its war court at guantánamo bay, conditions at guantánamo are cruel and inhuman, u.n. investigation finds.

  • Share full article

Podcasts From The New York Times

The Daily:  The biggest stories, five days a week, including the indictment of Donald Trump , the implosion of Silicon Valley Bank  and the threat to abortion pills .

The Run-Up:  Astead W. Herndon grapples with the big ideas already animating the 2024 election by reporting from inside the political establishment .

Hard Fork:  Kevin Roose and Casey Newton make sense of the world of tech, including Google's Place in the A.I. Arms Race  and the arrival of GPT-4 .

Modern Love: Anna Martin unpacks the complicated love lives of real people, exploring topics like getting ghosted  and how to stop searching for the perfect partner .

Popcast:  A weekly conversation from Jon Caramanica and The Times’s music team, with roundtables on artists like Ice Spice , Taylor Swift  and  SZA .

From Opinion

The Ezra Klein Show:  Real conversations on the forces shaping the world, such as the increasing pace of A.I. development  and China's global influence .

First Person:  Lulu Garcia-Navarro explores intimate conversations about big ideas, like the experiences of a war reporter  and treating obesity as a disease.



More from the Review

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Best of The New York Review, plus books, events, and other items of interest

  • The New York Review of Books: recent articles and content from
  • The Reader's Catalog and NYR Shop: gifts for readers and NYR merchandise offers
  • New York Review Books: news and offers about the books we publish
  • I consent to having NYR add my email to their mailing list.
  • Hidden Form Source

April 18, 2024

Current Issue

Image of the April 18, 2024 issue cover.

March 21, 2024 issue

the story of an hour critique essay

Michael Caulfield/WireImage/Getty Images

Donald Trump and Megan Mullally performing the Green Acres theme song at the Emmy Awards, Los Angeles, September 2005

Submit a letter:

Email us [email protected]

In the Warsaw Ghetto in October 1941 Mary Berg, then a teenager, wrote in her diary about the improbable persistence of laughter in that hellish place:

Every day at the Art Café on Leszno Street one can hear songs and satires on the police, the ambulance service, the rickshaws, and even the Gestapo, in a veiled fashion. The typhus epidemic itself is the subject of jokes. It is laughter through tears, but it is laughter. This is our only weapon in the ghetto—our people laugh at death and at the Nazi decrees. Humor is the only thing the Nazis cannot understand.

Berg here movingly expresses a common and comforting idea. Laughter is one of the few weapons that the weak have against the strong. Gallows humor is the one thing that cannot be taken away from those who are about to be hanged, the final death-defying assertion of human dignity and freedom. And the hangmen don’t get the jokes. Fascists don’t understand humor.

There is great consolation in these thoughts. Yet is it really true that fascists don’t get humor? Racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, xenophobic, antidisabled, and antiqueer jokes have always been used to dehumanize those who are being victimized. The ghetto humor that Berg recorded was a way of keeping self-pity at bay. But as Sigmund Freud pointed out, jokes can also be a way of shutting down pity itself by identifying those who are being laughed at as the ones not worthy of it: “A saving in pity is one of the most frequent sources of humorous pleasure.” Humor, as in Berg’s description, may be a way of telling us not to feel sorry for ourselves. But it is more often a way of telling us not to feel sorry for others. It creates an economy of compassion, limiting it to those who are laughing and excluding those who are being laughed at. It makes the polarization of humanity fun.

Around the time that Berg was writing her diary, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer were pointing to the relationship between Nazi rallies and this kind of comedy. The rally, they suggested, was an arena in which a release that was otherwise forbidden was officially permitted:

The anti-Semites gather to celebrate the moment when authority lifts the ban; that moment alone makes them a collective, constituting the community of kindred spirits. Their ranting is organized laughter. The more dreadful the accusations and threats, the greater the fury, the more withering is the scorn. Rage, mockery, and poisoned imitation are fundamentally the same thing.

Donald Trump is not a Nazi, and his followers are (mostly) not fascists. But it is not hard to see how this description resonates with his campaign appearances. Trump is America’s biggest comedian. His badinage is hardly Wildean, but his put-downs, honed to the sharpness of stilettos, are many people’s idea of fun. For them, he makes anger, fear, and resentment entertaining.

For anyone who questions how much talent and charisma this requires, there is a simple answer: Ron DeSantis. Why did DeSantis’s attempt to appeal to Republican voters as a straitlaced version of Trump fall so flat? Because Trumpism without the cruel laughter is nothing. It needs its creator’s fusion of rage, mockery, and poisoned imitation, whether of a reporter with a disability or (in a dumb show that Trump has been playing out in his speeches in recent months) of Joe Biden apparently unable to find his way off a stage. It demands the withering scorn for Sleepy Joe and Crooked Hillary, Crazy Liz and Ron DeSanctimonious, Cryin’ Chuck and Phoney Fani. It requires the lifting of taboos to create a community of kindred spirits. It depends on Trump’s ability to be pitiless in his ridicule of the targets of his contempt while allowing his audience to feel deeply sorry for itself. (If tragedy, as Aristotle claimed, involves terror and pity, Trump’s tragicomedy deals in terror and self-pity.)

Hard as it is to understand, especially for those of us who are too terrified to be amused, Trump’s ranting is organized laughter. To understand his continuing hold over his fans, we have to ask: Why is he funny?

This is not the 1930s or the 1940s, and we should not expect this toxic laughter to be organized quite as it was then. Trump functions in a culture supersaturated with knowingness and irony. In twentieth-century European fascism, the relationship between words and actions was clear: the end point of mockery was annihilation. Now, the joke is “only a joke.” Populist politics exploits the doubleness of comedy—the way that “only a joke” can so easily become “no joke”—to create a relationship of active connivance between the leader and his followers in which everything is permissible because nothing is serious.

This shift has happened in Europe, too. Think of Boris Johnson’s clown act, his deliberately ruffled hair, rumpled clothes, and ludicrous language. Or think of Giorgia Meloni, the first Italian prime minister from the far right since Benito Mussolini, posting on election day in September 2022 a TikTok video of herself holding two large melons ( meloni in Italian) in front of her breasts: fascism as adolescent snigger. It is impossible to think of previous far-right leaders engaging in such public self-mockery. Only in our time is it possible for a politician to create a sense of cultlike authority by using the collusiveness of comedy, the idea that the leader and his followers are united by being in on the joke.

Trump may be a narcissist, but he has a long history of this kind of self-caricature. When he did the Top Ten List on the David Letterman show in 2009, he seemed entirely comfortable delivering with a knowing smirk the top ten “financial tips” written for him, including “When nobody’s watching I go into a 7/11 and stick my head under a soda nozzle”; “Save money by styling your own hair” (pointing to his own improbable coiffure); “Sell North Dakota to the Chinese”; “If all else fails, steal someone’s identity”; and “The fastest way to get rich: marry and divorce me.” This performance, moreover, was the occasion for Trump’s entry into the world of social media. His first ever tweet was: “Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman as he presents the Top Ten List tonight!”

At the 2005 Emmy Awards, Trump dressed in blue overalls and a straw hat and, brandishing a pitchfork, sang the theme song from the 1960s TV comedy Green Acres . Trump is a terrible singer and a worse actor, but he seemed completely unembarrassed on stage. He understood the joke: that Oliver, the fictional character he was impersonating, is a wealthy Manhattanite who moves to rustic Hooterville to run a farm, following his dream of the simple life—an alternative self that was amusing because it was, for Trump, unimaginable. But he may have sensed that there was also a deep cultural resonance. The Apprentice was “reality TV ,” a form in which the actual and the fictional are completely fused.

Green Acres , scenes from which played on a screen behind Trump as he was singing, pioneered this kind of metatelevision. Its debut episode set it up as a supposed documentary presented by a well-known former newscaster. Its characters regularly broke the fourth wall. When Oliver launched into rhapsodic speeches about American rural values, a fife rendition of “Yankee Doodle” would play on the soundtrack, and the other characters would move around in puzzlement trying to figure out where the musician was. Eva Gabor, playing Oliver’s pampered wife, admits on the show that her only real talent is doing impressions of Zsa Zsa Gabor, the actor’s more famous real-life sister.

The critic Armond White wrote in 1985 that “ Green Acres ’ surreal rationale is to capture the moment American gothic turns American comic.” Trump playing Oliver in 2005 may be the moment American comedy turned gothic again. Whoever had the idea of connecting Trump back to Green Acres clearly understood that “Donald Trump” had by then also become a metatelevision character, a real-life failed businessman who impersonated an ultrasuccessful mogul on The Apprentice . And Trump went along with the conceit because he instinctively understood that self-parody was not a threat to his image—it was his image. This connection to Green Acres was reestablished by Trump himself as president of the United States. In December 2018, as he was about to sign the Farm Bill into law, Trump tweeted, “Farm Bill signing in 15 minutes! #Emmys #TBT,” with a clip of himself in the Green Acres spoof. Hooterville and the White House were as one.

What is new in the development of antidemocratic politics is that Trump brings all this comic doubleness—the confusion of the real and the performative, of character and caricature—to bear on the authoritarian persona of the caudillo, the duce, the strongman savior. The prototype dictators of the far right may have looked absurd to their critics (“Hitler,” wrote Adorno and Horkheimer, “can gesticulate like a clown, Mussolini risk false notes like a provincial tenor”), but within the community of their followers and the shadow community of their intended victims, their histrionics had to be taken entirely seriously. Trump, on the other hand, retains all his self-aware absurdity even while creating a political persona of immense consequence.

This comic-authoritarian politics has some advantages over the older dictatorial style. It allows a threat to democracy to appear as at worst a tasteless prank: in the 2016 presidential campaign even liberal outlets like The New York Times took Hillary Clinton’s e-mails far more seriously than Trump’s open stirring of hatred against Mexicans and Muslims. Funny-autocratic functions better in a society like that of the US, where the boundaries of acceptable insult are still shifting and mainstream hate-mongering still has to be light on its feet. It allows racial insults and brazen lies to be issued, as it were, in inverted commas. If you don’t see those invisible quotation marks, you are not smart enough—or you are too deeply infected by the woke mind virus—to be in on the joke. You are not part of the laughing community. The importance of not being earnest is that it defines the boundaries of the tribe. The earnest are the enemy.

The extreme right in America was very quick to understand the potency of “only a joke” in the Internet age. In a 2001 study of three hate speech websites sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan, Michael Billig noted that each of them described itself on its home page as a humorous exercise. The largest, called “N…..jokes KKK ” (the ellipsis is mine) carried the disclaimers: “You agree by entering this site, that this type of joke is legal where you live, and you agree that you recognize this site is meant as a joke not to be taken seriously”; “And you agree that this site is a comedy site, not a real racist site”; “We ARE NOT real life racists.”

What does “real life” even mean when Klansmen are not really racist? The power of this “humorous” mode of discourse lies at least partly in the way it blurs the distinctions between the real and the symbolic, and between words and actions. Consider the example of some of the men tried for their alleged parts in a 2020 plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan. One of them, Barry Croft, insisted at his trial in 2022 that he was joking most of the time when he posted on Facebook questions like “Which governor is going to end up being dragged off and hung for treason first?” Another, Brandon Caserta, was acquitted in 2022 in part because he successfully pleaded that violent statements he made on Facebook and in secretly recorded meetings of the group were not serious. These included claims that the Second Amendment sanctions the killing of “agents of the government when they become tyrannical.” “I may kill dozens of agents but eventually die in the process,” Caserta wrote on Facebook in May 2020. He later posted that he would beat government agents so hard they would “beg til they couldn’t beg any more because their mouth is so full of blood.”

At Croft’s trial, his defense attorney put it to an FBI witness that a meme Croft posted showing thirty bullets as “30 votes that count” was “A little tongue-in-cheek? A little bit funny?” On the second season of Jon Ronson’s superb podcast series for the BBC , Things Fell Apart , Caserta acknowledges that, on the secret recordings, he is heard to urge his fellow militia members that any lawyers advocating for the Covid vaccine be decapitated in their own homes, speaks of “wanting Zionist banker blood,” and advocates blowing up buildings where the vaccine is manufactured. He nonetheless insists to Ronson:

This isn’t something I’m dead serious about. This is nothing I ever planned. It’s funny, dude! It’s funny! It’s fun to blow stuff up. It’s fun to shoot guns. It’s fun to say ridiculous offensive shit. And if it offends you, so what? I don’t care about your feelings and how you feel about words. Sorry!

The twist of logic here is striking: Caserta equates blowing stuff up and shooting people with saying ridiculous offensive shit. Violent words and violent actions are all covered by the same disclaimer—one that Trump’s apologists use to blur the relationship between his words and his followers’ actions in the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. In the Trumpian twilight zone where democracy is dying but not yet dead, the connection between words (“fight like hell”) and deeds (the armed invasion of the Capitol) must be both strong and weak, sufficiently “no joke” to be understood by the faithful yet sufficiently “only a joke” to be deniable to the infidels. The comic mode is what creates the plausible deniability that in turn allows what used to be mainstream Republicans (and some Democrats) to remain in denial about what Trumpism really means.

For those who love Trump, there is something carnivalesque in all of this. In his discussion of “mediaeval laughter” in Rabelais and His World , Mikhail Bakhtin wrote that “one might say that it builds its own world versus the official world, its own church versus the official church, its own state versus the official state.” Bakhtin suggested that the

festive liberation of laughter…was a temporary suspension of the entire official system with all its prohibitions and hierarchic barriers. For a short time life came out of its usual, legalized and consecrated furrows and entered the sphere of utopian freedom.

Trump and many of his followers have made this quite literal. They create their own America, their own republic, their own notions of legality, their own church of the leader’s cult, their own state versus what they see as the official state. In this way, extreme polarization becomes a sphere of utopian freedom.

This is the capacious zone in which Trump’s comedy operates, an arena that admits everyone who gets the joke, from those who fantasize about killing tyrants, decapitating lawyers, and torturing government agents to those who just like to blow off steam by listening to their hero saying stuff that riles the woke enemy. It is crucial that in Trump’s delivery there is no shift from mockery to seriousness, no line between entertainment and violence. His singsong tone is generous and flexible, serving equally well for vaudeville and vituperation. In his streams of consciousness, they flow together as complementary currents.

In the recent speeches in which he has upped the ante on openly fascist rhetoric by characterizing his opponents as “vermin” and accusing immigrants of “poisoning the blood of our country,” it is notable that his cadence is soft, almost lilting. There is no warning to his audience that these comments are of a different order. They are not even applause lines. By underplaying them, Trump leaves open the fundamental question: Is his mimicking of Hitler’s imagery just another impersonation, all of a piece with the way he does Biden and Haley in funny voices or even with the way he sings the theme song from Green Acres ?

Even when Trump actually goes the whole way and acknowledges that his rhetoric is indeed Hitlerian, as he did in a speech in Iowa after the alarmed reaction of liberals to his previous “poisoning the blood” speech, it is in a passage that jumbles together murderous intent, complaint about the media, and comic acting: “They are destroying the blood of our country. That’s what they’re doing…. They don’t like it when I said that. And I never read Mein Kampf .” But he makes the “Kampf” funny, puckering his lips and elongating the “pf” so it sounds like a rude noise. He continues: “They said ‘Oh, Hitler said that.’” Then he adds his defense: “in a much different way.” It is the stand-up comedian’s credo: it’s not the jokes, it’s the way you tell ’em. And this is, indeed, true—the difference is in the way he tells it, in a voice whose ambiguous pitch has been perfected over many years of performance.

The knowingness is all. In the speech in Conway, South Carolina, on February 10, in which he openly encouraged Russia to attack “delinquent” members of NATO , this startling statement, with potential world-historical consequences, was preceded by Trump’s metatheatrical riff on the idea of “fun.” What was fun, he told his followers, was the reaction he could provoke just by saying “Barack Hussein Obama”:

Every time I say it, anytime I want to have a little fun…even though the country is going to hell, we have to have a little bit of fun…. Remember Rush Limbaugh, he’d go “Barack Hooosaynn Obama”—I wonder what he was getting at.

He then segued into another commentary on his own well-honed send-up of Joe Biden: “I do the imitation where Biden can’t find his way off the stage…. So I do the imitation—is this fun?—I say this guy can’t put two sentences together…and then I go ‘Watch!’” (He said the word with a comic pout.) “I’ll imitate him. I go like this: ‘Haw!’” Trump hunches his shoulders and extends his arm, in a parody of Biden’s gestures. In this burlesque, Trump is not just mimicking his opponent; he is explicitly reenacting his own previous mocking impersonation, complete with commentary. He is simultaneously speaking, acting, and speaking about his acting.

It is within this “fun” frame that Trump proceeded to insinuate that there is something awry with Nikki Haley’s marriage: “Where’s her husband? Oh he’s away…. What happened to her husband? What happened to her husband! Where is he? He’s gone. He knew, he knew.” He and presumably many members of the audience were aware that Michael Haley is currently serving in Djibouti with the South Carolina National Guard. But as part of the show, with the funny voices and the exaggerated gestures, that lurid hint at some mysteriously unmentionable scandal (“He knew, he knew”) is somehow amusing. And then so is Trump’s story about telling an unnamed head of a “big” NATO country that the US would not defend it from invasion and—the punch line—that he would “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want.” Here Trump is acting in both senses, both ostentatiously performing and exerting a real influence on global politics—but which is which? How can we tell the dancer from the dance?

This shuffling in a typical Trump speech of different levels of seriousness—personal grudges beside grave geopolitics, savage venom mixed with knockabout farce, possible truths rubbing up against outrageous lies—creates a force field of incongruities. Between the looming solidity of Trump’s body and the airy, distracted quality of his words, in which weightless notions fly off before they are fully expressed, he seems at once immovable and in manic flux.

Incongruity has long been seen as one of the conditions of comedy. Francis Hutcheson in Reflections Upon Laughter (1725) noted that it is “this contrast or opposition of ideas of dignity and meanness which is the occasion of laughter.” The supposedly dignified idea of “greatness” is vital to Trump’s presence and rhetoric. But it is inextricably intertwined with the mean, the inconsequential, even the infantile. He is at one moment the grandiose man of destiny and the next a naughty child—an incongruity that can be contained only within an organized laughter in which the juxtaposition of incompatibilities is the essence of fun. This is why Trump’s lapses into pure gibberish—like telling a National Rifle Association gathering in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on February 9 that the Democrats are planning to “change the name of Pennsylvania” and that, in relation to the marble columns in the hall, it was “incredible how they could [have been built] years ago without the powerful tractors that you have today”—do not make his fans alarmed about his mental acuity. Cognitive dysfunction is not a worry with a man whose métier is cognitive dissonance.

Part of the dissonance is that Trump’s stand-up routine is completely dependent on the idea that he and his audience most despise: political correctness. Like much of the worst of contemporary comedy, Trump both amuses and thrills his audience by telling them that he is saying what he is not allowed to say. “Beautiful women,” he said at the rally in South Carolina after pointing to a group of female superfans in the audience. “You’re not allowed to say that anymore, but I’ll say it…. That usually is the end of a career, but I’ll say it.” There are so many layers to a moment like this: the idea that the woke mob is stopping manly men from complimenting attractive women, a sideways nod toward the “pussygate” tapes that should have ended Trump’s political career but didn’t, a dig at the Me Too movement, a reiteration of Trump’s right to categorize women as “my type” or “not my type,” the power of the leader to lift prohibitions—not just for himself but, in this carnivalesque arena of utopian freedom, for everyone in the audience.

Flirting with the unsayable has long been part of his shtick. If we go all the way back to May 1992 to watch Trump on Letterman’s show, there is a moment when Trump silently mouths the word “shit.” He does this in a way that must have been practiced rather than spontaneous—it takes some skill to form an unspoken word so clearly for a TV audience that everyone immediately understands it. Letterman plays his straight man: “You ain’t that rich, Don, you can’t come on here and say that.” But of course Trump did not “say” it. A sympathetic audience loves a moment like this because it is invited to do the transgressive part in its head. It gets the pleasure of filling in the blank.

Trump’s audiences, in other words, are not passive. This comedy is a joint enterprise of performer and listener. It gives those listeners the opportunity for consent and collusion. Consider a televised speech Trump gave at the Al Smith Dinner, hosted by the Catholic archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in October 2016, near the end of the presidential campaign. The dinner, held to raise money for Catholic charities, is traditionally the last occasion on which the two main presidential candidates share a stage—Hillary Clinton was also present. Trump deadpanned that he knew he would have a receptive audience because “so many of you in the archdiocese already have a place in your heart for a guy who started out as a carpenter working for his father. I was a carpenter working for my father. True.”

What is the joke here? That Trump is like Jesus Christ. Imagine if Clinton had attempted an equivalent gag. There would have been outrage and uproar: Clinton has insulted all Christians by making a blasphemous comparison between herself and the divine Savior. But the cameras cut to Dolan, a sycophantic supporter of Trump, and showed him laughing heartily. And if the cardinal found it funny, it was funny. It was thus an in-joke. If Clinton had made it, it would be the ultimate out-joke, proof of the Democrats’ contempt for people of faith.

But what is allowed as funny will sooner or later be proposed seriously. Many of those attending Trump rallies now wear T-shirts that proclaim “Jesus Is My Savior. Trump Is My President.” Some of them illustrate the slogan with a picture of an ethereal Christ laying both his hands on Trump’s shoulders. What begins as a risqué quip ends up as a religious icon. There is no line here between sacrilege and devotion, transgressive humor and religious veneration.

Just as Trump’s jokes can become literal, his ugly realities can be bathed in the soothing balm of laughter. Long before he ran for president, he was indulged on the late-night talk shows as the hilarious huckster. In 1986 Letterman tried repeatedly to get Trump to tell him how much money he had, and when he continually evaded the question, Letterman broke the tension with the laugh-line, “You act like you’re running for something.” In December 2005 Conan O’Brien asked him, “You also have an online school? Is that correct?” Trump replied, “Trump University—if you want to learn how to get rich.” The audience howled with laughter, presumably not because they thought he was kidding but because the very words “Trump University” are innately absurd. When he did that Top Ten List on Letterman in 2009, Trump’s comic financial advice included “For tip number four, simply send me $29.95.”

But these jokes came true. Trump wouldn’t say how much he was worth because his net worth was partly fictional. Trump did run for something. Trump University was an innately funny idea that people took seriously enough to enable Trump to rip them off. And Trump does want you to send him $29.95—the first thing you get on Trump’s official website is an insistent demand: “Donate Today.” This is the thing about Trump’s form of organized laughter, in which the idea of humor obscures the distinction between outlandish words and real-life actions. Sooner or later, the first becomes the second. The in-joke becomes the killer line.

March 21, 2024

Image of the March 21, 2024 issue cover.

Who Should Regulate Online Speech?

Small Island

Subscribe to our Newsletters

More by Fintan O’Toole

February 11, 2024

As we enter an election year, can the Democrats prevent age from becoming a serious obstacle?

January 18, 2024 issue

November 14, 2023

Fintan O’Toole is the Advising Editor at The New York Review and a columnist for The Irish Times. His most recent book, We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland , was published in the US last year. (March 2024)

The Fate of the Union: Kennedy and After

December 26, 1963 issue

Reagan and the Apocalypse

January 19, 1984 issue

‘Knee Deep in the Hoopla’

December 21, 1989 issue

A Double Standard

April 9, 1992 issue

Lost in the Cosmic

June 14, 1990 issue

An Illegal War

October 21, 2004 issue

The Report of Captain Secher

March 15, 2007 issue

the story of an hour critique essay

Subscribe and save 50%!

Get immediate access to the current issue and over 25,000 articles from the archives, plus the NYR App.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

Judge orders delay in Trump hush money trial until at least mid-April

Delay forced by release of thousands of documents from the defunct federal investigation, which could involve michael cohen or other witnesses.

NEW YORK — The judge overseeing the expected first criminal trial of Donald Trump , which was due to begin this month, has pushed it back until at least mid-April, saying that lawyers need more time to review a fresh set of potential evidence and that he wants to hear arguments about whether the material was handled properly.

The trial had been scheduled to start March 25 and would probably be the first criminal trial of a former president in U.S. history, given that Trump’s other criminal cases are mired in separate delays. But the timing was thrown into doubt this week as Trump’s lawyers accused prosecutors of dealing unfairly with them in the handling of more than 100,000 pages of material that could be evidence in the case.

The surprise scheduling twist is an outgrowth of the strange legal path that led to Trump being indicted last year on state charges of business records fraud for hush money paid made to an adult-film actress, a journey that started in the office of federal prosecutors in downtown Manhattan but ended up with state-level prosecutors a few blocks away.

The federal prosecutors wrested a guilty plea out of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen but chose not to pursue a criminal case against the former president. Now, records from that old case have come back to haunt the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who brought an indictment against Trump last year related to the hush money.

Sign up for The Trump Trials, our weekly newsletter on Trump's four criminal cases

On Friday, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan sent a letter to the district attorney’s office and Trump’s lawyers notifying them that instead of starting jury selection March 25, as planned, he will push the trial back 30 days from the date of his letter.

The judge scheduled a pretrial hearing March 25 to discuss the dispute over evidence and a motion from Trump’s lawyers seeking to throw out the case or, short of that, bar testimony from key witnesses, including Cohen and the adult-film actress, Stormy Daniels.

“The court will set the new trial date, if necessary, when it rules on Defendant’s motion following the hearing,” Merchan wrote.

Also Friday, Bragg said he will soon receive about 15,000 new pages of documents from the U.S. attorney’s office — Bragg’s federal counterparts — on top of the 100,000 pages he got earlier.

Those federal prosecutors previously investigated much of the same conduct that Bragg’s office focused on to charge Trump. He is accused of scheming to cover up his payment of hush money in 2016 to hide from the public an alleged sexual liaison years earlier with Daniels. The former president, who is again running for the White House and has clinched the Republican nomination, has pleaded not guilty in the case and denies an affair with Daniels.

Lawyers for Trump, who sought a 90-day delay in the trial, have argued that evidence from the federal investigation is critical to being able to defend their client from the state charges. They also have accused prosecutors of deliberately withholding reams of such documents until about two weeks before the scheduled trial start date.

The imbroglio — a byproduct of the difference of legal opinions between federal and state prosecutors about a chain of events dating back to 2016 — could further delay a criminal case that is already eight years in the making.

The U.S. attorney’s office “should be permitted to address the extraordinarily serious claim” by the Manhattan district attorney that federal prosecutors “wrongfully withheld responsive materials on a previous occasion,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their letter to the judge. It’s unclear if the judge will ask to hear from federal prosecutors.

The three other criminal cases against Trump all face a variety of delays: in D.C., where he is charged with conspiring to block the 2020 election results, the court is waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on Trump’s claims of presidential immunity; In Florida, where he is charged with mishandling classified documents and obstructing justice , the judge is weighing a host of complex legal issues , many of them revolving around national security sensitivities; and in Georgia , state prosecutors have been embroiled in a two-month legal drama over a personal relationship that forced one of the key lawyers off the case Friday.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him and accused prosecutors of pursuing him for political reasons as he runs for president.

When he was seeking the White House in 2016, Trump allegedly used Cohen to pay Daniels $130,000 for her silence about a sexual liaison years earlier. The U.S. attorney’s office investigated that payment as a potential campaign finance violation and probed Cohen’s finances more broadly. In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including tax evasion, making an illegal campaign donation, lying to a bank and lying to Congress.

Cohen’s guilty plea made clear that he arranged the payment to Daniels at the behest of Trump, but federal prosecutors concluded the evidence was not strong enough to charge Trump for several reasons — chief among them, their concerns about Cohen’s credibility as a trial witness, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations.

The U.S. attorney’s office “was never going to bring a case in which Michael Cohen was a government witness,” one person familiar with the matter said.

Part of the federal officials’ concern was that even as Cohen agreed to plead guilty, they suspected he was being dishonest with them and refusing to divulge everything he knew about alleged criminal conduct, people familiar with the matter said.

There were also more pragmatic reasons to avoid filing federal charges against Trump, these people said. For one thing, it has long been Justice Department precedent that a sitting president cannot be accused of a crime, let alone charged, and Trump was in office while much of the federal investigation was underway. In addition, a trial defeat in a past campaign finance case weighed heavily on federal officials’ minds.

In 2012, a jury deadlocked on most of the federal charges against former Democratic senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) over nearly $1 million his donors paid to support his mistress during the 2008 presidential campaign. Prosecutors dropped the case weeks after the hung jury.

When weighing charges against Trump, federal prosecutors also worried that what he allegedly did in terms of the hush money reimbursements might not be a crime under a careful reading of federal campaign finance laws, the people familiar with the matter said.

Ultimately, prosecutors decided it did not make sense to file federal criminal charges against a former president on an issue that was a close call legally and depended on a star witness with a terrible track record, these people said.

Years later, the state-level Manhattan district attorney’s office, first under Cyrus Vance and later Bragg, explored whether it could prove violations of state law related to the hush money. Last March, after Bragg filed the first indictment in U.S. history of a former president , lawyers for Trump began demanding access to the federal investigative file as well as the state case, suspecting that the U.S. attorney’s office held key evidence that could help Trump by further eroding Cohen’s credibility.

Trump’s lawyers were using a strategy deployed in all of his criminal cases — making far-reaching demands for discovery, or potential trial evidence, that could be beneficial in a number of ways. Extensive hunts for discovery material could bog down prosecutors’ time and resources, or find information showing unfairness toward their client, or simply cause major delays to the trial process.

This week, that strategy seemed to pay off for the defense lawyers, as the Manhattan district attorney’s office said it was receiving three large tranches of documents from the U.S. attorney’s office.

The first tranche, Bragg’s office said in a court filing, consisted of roughly 73,000 pages of records, “the vast majority of which are irrelevant to the subject matter of this case.”

The second set of papers, totaling some 31,000 pages, was described somewhat more ominously by Bragg in his filings. “Those records appear to contain materials related to the subject matter of this case, including materials that the People requested from the [U.S. Attorney] more than a year ago and that the [U.S. Attorney] previously declined to provide,” Bragg wrote.

The third batch of some 15,000 pages delivered Friday was more like the first, prosecutors said, and not particularly relevant to the hush money case.

Trump’s lawyers seized on the varying descriptions of the material to suggest that the district attorney’s office was mischaracterizing both the material and the seriousness of the dispute.

Noting that Bragg has claimed in his court filing that his office had requested some of the material from the U.S. attorney more than a year ago and been denied, Trump’s lawyers suggested that claim may not be true.

“We expect there will be factual disputes about the timing and scope of any such requests, which will require a response” from the U.S. attorney’s office, Trump lawyers Todd Blanche and Susan Necheles wrote Friday. The judge, the lawyers said, will have to make “credibility determinations.”

Barrett reported from Washington.

Trump New York hush money case

The latest: The judge overseeing former president Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York said the case would go to trial April 15 . Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts stemming from 2016 payments.

What is the case about? The investigation involves a $130,000 payment made to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress , during the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s one of many ongoing investigations involving Trump . Here are some of the key people in the case .

What are the charges? Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. Falsifying business records is a felony in New York when there is an “intent to defraud” that includes an intent to “commit another crime or to aid or conceal” another crime. Here’s the full text of the Trump indictment .

Can Trump still run for president? While it has never been attempted by a candidate from a major party before, Trump is allowed to run for president while under indictment — or even if he is convicted of a crime. Here’s how Trump’s indictment could impact the 2024 election .

  • Trump placed under limited gag order ahead of N.Y. hush money trial March 26, 2024 Trump placed under limited gag order ahead of N.Y. hush money trial March 26, 2024
  • N.Y. judge sets firm April 15 trial date in Trump’s historic hush money case March 25, 2024 N.Y. judge sets firm April 15 trial date in Trump’s historic hush money case March 25, 2024
  • Papers that delayed Trump’s N.Y. trial involve key witness Michael Cohen March 21, 2024 Papers that delayed Trump’s N.Y. trial involve key witness Michael Cohen March 21, 2024

the story of an hour critique essay

New lawsuit seeks to eliminate Ohio's 24-hour waiting period for abortions

the story of an hour critique essay

A new lawsuit seeks to eliminate Ohio's requirement that patients wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion.

The legal challenge, filed Friday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, is the first new lawsuit since Ohio voters enshrined reproductive rights in the state constitution in November. Other laws were already being challenged, such as the state's ban on most abortions.

More: Ohioans approved protections for abortion rights. But most restrictions remain on the books

The new lawsuit challenges state laws that require doctors to inform patients of the medical risks of abortions, the probable gestational age of the embryo or fetus and the medical risks associated with carrying the pregnancy to term during an in-person visit at least 24 hours before the abortions via medicine or a procedure.

Ohio abortion providers say these rules are unnecessary because physicians already practice informed consent and insulting because patients have already thoughtfully considered their decision to have an abortion.

"This is degrading to patients, who are capable of making their own free choices − who know their bodies and know what they want," wrote Sharon Liner, Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio’s director of surgical services.

Doctors must also provide state-produced literature about family planning and alternatives to abortions. Patients facing an emergency procedure can forgo these requirements, but those scenarios are rare. If doctors don’t comply, the state medical board can revoke their license and face lawsuits from patients.

“I deal with thousands of patients every year," wrote Dr. David Burkons, the medical director of Northeast Ohio Women’s Center. "It just is not my experience that these laws cause patients to rethink their decision once they have made it.”

The lawsuit also seeks to block a requirement that doctors test for embryonic or fetal cardiac activity. If doctors don’t perform that test, they could face a fifth-degree felony.

“These laws are now in clear violation of the newly amended Ohio Constitution, which enshrines the explicit and fundamental right to abortion and forbids the state from burdening, prohibiting, penalizing, and interfering with access to abortion, and discriminating against abortion patients and providers,” attorney Jessie Hill said in a statement.

These laws lead to delays, more expensive visits and logistical barriers, according to the lawsuit. Doctors recounted scenarios they had witnessed: a woman slept in her car parked at a McDonald's parking lot after driving hours to obtain an abortion. A patient in the military took four flights from the Middle East only to be told she had to wait another day. A person who drove from another state to have an abortion after a sexual assault; She had to return a week later.

“It was particularly traumatizing for this patient to wait an entire week for her abortion, as it meant having to continue for another week with a constant reminder of her rape," wrote Aimee Maple, a former patient advocate at Preterm.

These laws also single out abortion compared to other medical procedures.

“Mainstream medical consensus dictates that the best medical practice is to provide patients with timely abortion care without any unnecessary delays and that mandatory waiting periods for abortion do not improve patient health,” according to the complaint.

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost would defend the common-sense laws.

 "These health and safety regulations protect women," Gonidakis said. "It is unconscionable that the abortion industry thinks that women's health standards should be callously disregarded in order to promote a political agenda."

In the lawsuit, attorneys contend that "legal abortion is extremely safe" and leads to fewer health complications than carrying a pregnancy to term. 

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of Preterm-Cleveland, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Women’s Med Group Professional Corporation, Northeast Ohio Women’s Center and Dr. Catherine Romanos .

Jessie Balmert is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio .

Home — Essay Samples — Literature — The Story of An Hour — The Story of an Hour: A Feminist Interpretation


The Story of an Hour: a Feminist Interpretation

  • Categories: The Story of An Hour

About this sample


Words: 820 |

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Words: 820 | Pages: 2 | 5 min read

Table of contents

Introduction, summary of "the story of an hour", analysis of the title, feminist interpretation, symbolism and imagery, irony and foreshadowing, literary devices and writing style, contrasting views and alternate interpretations.

  • Bender, Bert. "The Dynamic of Desire in 'The Story of an Hour.'" Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 34.3 (2005): 223-231. Print.
  • Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. New York: Perfection Learning, 2000. Print.
  • Showalter, Elaine. "Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book." New Essays on 'The Awakening.' New York: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print.

Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Let us write you an essay from scratch

  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours

Get high-quality help


Verified writer

  • Expert in: Literature


+ 120 experts online

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy . We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

No need to pay just yet!

Related Essays

1 pages / 557 words

1 pages / 493 words

3 pages / 1153 words

2 pages / 887 words

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

121 writers online

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled

Related Essays on The Story of An Hour

The "Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin is a short story that explores the theme of freedom and identity through the character of Mrs. Mallard. In this essay, I will analyze Mrs. Mallard's character in terms of her psychological [...]

Kate Chopin's short story, "The Story of an Hour," is a masterpiece of American literature, recognized for its exploration of complex themes such as freedom, marriage, and societal expectations. In this critical essay, we will [...]

The Story of an Hour is a renowned short story written by Kate Chopin in 1894. This piece of literature was controversial for its time as it portrayed a female protagonist who felt relieved after her husband's death. The ironic [...]

Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" is a short story that explores the internal conflict of the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, and her pursuit of personal freedom. The story is set during the late 19th century, a time when societal [...]

In The Story of an Hour, Kate Chopin uses a variety of literary devices ranging from third person narration, juxtaposition and irony to vividly illustrate the dramatic process of grievance, and alternately liberation, that Mrs. [...]

In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin we see how during this time, life revolves around how men view women and their qualities. “The Story of an Hour” relates to “The [...]

Related Topics

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement . We will occasionally send you account related emails.

Where do you want us to send this sample?

By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Be careful. This essay is not unique

This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

Download this Sample

Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts

Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.

Please check your inbox.

We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!

Get Your Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

We use cookies to personalyze your web-site experience. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy .

  • Instructions Followed To The Letter
  • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
  • Unique And Plagiarism Free

the story of an hour critique essay


  1. The Story of an Hour Literary Analysis Free Essay Example

    the story of an hour critique essay

  2. "The Story of An Hour" Kate Chopin (1894)

    the story of an hour critique essay

  3. The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

    the story of an hour critique essay

  4. Kate Chopin “The Story of an Hour” Critical Analysis Free Essay Example

    the story of an hour critique essay

  5. The Story of an Hour

    the story of an hour critique essay

  6. Victorian Short Fiction Project

    the story of an hour critique essay


  1. Story hour! Storytelling story time lol

  2. 2

  3. Your Story Hour

  4. Hero's Hour Review

  5. Evaluating the New Silent Hill Experiment

  6. Hazbin Hotel is a GAME CHANGER


  1. The Story of an Hour Critical Analysis Essay

    The Story of an Hour was written by Kate Chopin in 1984. It describes a woman, Mrs. Mallard, who lost her husband in an accident, but later the truth came out, and the husband was alive. This essay will discuss The Story of an Hour with emphasis on the plot and development of the protagonist, Mrs. Mallard, who goes through contrasting emotions ...

  2. The Story of an Hour: a Critical Analysis

    Kate Chopin's short story, "The Story of an Hour," is a masterpiece of American literature, recognized for its exploration of complex themes such as freedom, marriage, and societal expectations. In this critical essay, we will delve into the narrative's underlying messages, character development, and the literary devices employed to convey its ...

  3. The Story of an Hour Essays and Criticism

    PDF Cite Share. "The Story of an Hour" is built around the "expression of a woman's shockingly unorthodox feelings about her marriage''; so says Bert Bender, in an essay devoted to Chopin's short ...

  4. Analysis of Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour

    Originally entitled "The Dream of an Hour" when it was first published in Vogue (December 1894), "The Story of an Hour" has since become one of Kate Chopin's most frequently anthologized stories. Among her shortest and most daring works, "Story" examines issues of feminism, namely, a woman's dissatisfaction in a conventional marriage and her desire…

  5. Critical Lenses in The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

    The story of an Hour by Kate Chopin can be analyzed in a feminist lens, although the author never indicated that she was a feminist.The feminist lens is demonstrated in the theme of women suppression. It is evident that people are all worried about Louise Mallard's reaction when she learns about her husband death, but they do not know how happy she is to hear the news.

  6. The Story of an Hour Critical Essays

    In an essay published in the The Markham Review, Madonne M. Miner analyzes how readers respond to the organization of words in the story. Focusing on Chopin's use of the passive voice, Miner ...

  7. A Summary and Analysis of Kate Chopin's 'The Story of an Hour'

    Yet Chopin's short story is, upon closer inspection, a subtle, studied analysis of death, marriage, and personal wishes. Written in April 1894 and originally published in Vogue in December of that year, the story focuses on an hour in the life of a married woman who has just learnt that her husband has apparently died.

  8. The Story of an Hour Analysis

    The Story of an Hour Analysis. L ouise's newfound hope for the future in the wake of her husband's death encapsulates the oftentimes repressive nature of nineteenth-century marriages.; Chopin uses ...

  9. Analysis Of Plot And Character Improvement In 'The Story Of An Hour

    Chopin uses irony to critique the constraints placed on women in the 19th century and to challenge traditional gender roles. Keep in mind: This is only a sample. Get a custom paper now from our expert writers. Get custom essay. Conclusion. ... Men and Women in The Yellow Wallpaper and The Story of an Hour Essay.

  10. "The Story of an Hour" Summary & Analysis

    After her initial sobs of grief subside, Louise escapes into her bedroom and locks the door. She refuses to let Josephine or Richards follow her. Alone, she falls into a chair placed before an open window. Absolutely drained by her own anguish and haunted by exhaustion, she rests in the chair and looks out the window.

  11. Analysis of "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin

    Updated on May 24, 2019. "The Story of an Hour" by American author Kate Chopin is a mainstay of feminist literary study. Originally published in 1894, the story documents the complicated reaction of Louise Mallard upon learning of her husband's death. It is difficult to discuss "The Story of an Hour" without addressing the ironic ending.

  12. The Story of an Hour: Full Plot Analysis

    Full Plot Analysis. As the brief nature of the story suggests, "The Story of an Hour" explores the sudden struggle that Louise Mallard faces as she reaches a major turning point in her life. The possibilities that exist in a world without her husband captivate her, but she also experiences guilt regarding the relief she feels after hearing ...

  13. The Story of an Hour Analysis & Summary

    Topic: The Story of an Hour Words: 1585 Pages: 6. This sample will help you write a The Story of an Hour analysis essay! Here you'll find a The Story of an Hour summary. Essay also contains a plot and character analysis. Table of Contents. The Story of an Hour is a short story written by Kate Chopin in 1894.

  14. The Story of an Hour: Summary and Analysis

    Analyzing Chopin's "The Story of an Hour" takes time and careful thought despite the shortness of the story. The story is open to multiple interpretations and has a lot to reveal about women in the 1890s, and many of the story's themes, characters, and symbols critique women's marriage roles during the period.

  15. The Story of an Hour: Study Guide

    First published in 1894, "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin is a poignant and thought-provoking short story. Set in the late 19th century, the narrative follows Louise Mallard, a woman with a heart condition, who receives the news of her husband's death in a railroad accident. Initially overwhelmed by grief, Louise's emotional ...

  16. A Feminist Reading of Kate Chopin's "The Story of an Hour"

    Kate Chopin, born on February 8th, 1850, is credited with being one of the first popular feminist authors of the 20th century. After the death of her husband, Kate moved in with her mother (who shortly died thereafter). She was left to raise her children alone and was suffering from depression. Her doctor and good friend recommended she fight ...

  17. 'Story of an Hour' by Kate Chopin

    Essays. English Literature. "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin is a short story from the late nineteenth century focusing on a young woman as she reacts to a report that says her husband, on the top of the list of the report, had died in a train accident. Due to this unfortunate accident she is given the chance of freedom and Chopin's ...

  18. Who Is Podcast Guest Turned Star Andrew Huberman, Really?

    Stanford's Andrew Huberman rose to prominence as a guest on the shows of Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Rich Roll, and others. His podcast, Huberman Lab, has millions of followers. But his former ...

  19. The Forgotten History of Hitler's Establishment Enablers

    The N.S.D.A.P. had been in existence since right after the Great War, as one of many völkisch, or populist, groups; its label, by including "national" and "socialist," was intended to ...

  20. Moscow Attack: Don't Believe the Kremlin

    Friday's terrorist attack at the Crocus City Hall concert venue near Moscow killed more than 100 people in a brutal crime against humanity. Many key facts are still unclear, and rest assured ...

  21. Story of an Hour: a Character Analysis

    Published: Mar 6, 2024. The "Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin is a short story that explores the theme of freedom and identity through the character of Mrs. Mallard. In this essay, I will analyze Mrs. Mallard's character in terms of her psychological state, her desires for freedom, and the implications of her transformation.

  22. 'Serial' Season 4: Guantánamo

    The first story she produced about Guantánamo, "Habeas Schmabeas," aired on "This American Life" in 2006. (Photograph by Sandy Honig) Dana Chivvis is the co-host of "Serial" Season 4.

  23. The Story of an Hour Historical and Social Context

    The Woman Question. "The Story of an Hour" was published in 1894, an era in which many social and cultural questions occupied Americans' minds. One of these, referred to as the "Woman Question ...

  24. Laugh Riot

    Best of The New York Review, plus books, events, and other items of interest ... Fiction Poetry Biography & Memoir In Translation Essays. Arts Collapse. Visual Arts Performing Arts Film ... And then so is Trump's story about telling an unnamed head of a "big" NATO country that the US would not defend it from invasion and—the punch line ...

  25. New documents prompt delay in Trump's hush money trial in New York

    When he was seeking the White House in 2016, Trump allegedly used Cohen to pay Daniels $130,000 for her silence about a sexual liaison years earlier.

  26. ACLU sues Ohio over 24-hour waiting period for abortions

    A new lawsuit seeks to eliminate Ohio's requirement that patients wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion. The legal challenge, filed Friday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, is the first ...

  27. The Story of an Hour: a Feminist Interpretation

    However, most feminist readings see the story as a powerful critique of gender norms and societal expectations. ... The Story of an Hour: Mrs. Mallard's Character Analysis Essay. The Story of an Hour is a renowned short story written by Kate Chopin in 1894. This piece of literature was controversial for its time as it portrayed a female ...