Comparing the Irony of Chopin
Kate Chopin uses irony to link "Desiree's Baby" and "The Story of an Hour" because each gives an emotional shock to the reader, which also helps link the theme of women facing depression through appearance versus reality. Both of these stories show the main characters, Mrs. Mallard and Desiree, facing ironic, tragic deaths at the end. These women faced depression because of their marriages having stolen a piece of who they are.
In “Desiree’s Baby” and “The Story of an Hour” both of the main characters have similarities in their marriages. As each woman enters a stage of depression due to their husband, both women realize that the will of their husband may have bent their own. Mrs. Mallard’s depression starts because of her husband’s death, whereas Desiree’s begins because of the loss of her husband’s love. Mrs. Mallard’s depression begins to lift as she realizes she has been freed from the burden of marriage. Desiree takes a different route in dealing with her depression as she turns from her husband, never to be seen again.
“The Story of an Hour” has a considerable amount of irony, which began after Mrs. Mallard was told of her husband Brently’s death. The first sign of irony arrives while Mrs. Mallard is sitting in a comfortable chair in her bedroom. As she looks out the window, she notices “the tops of trees that were all aquiver with new spring life (236).” As Barbara H. Solomon wrote, "Mrs. Mallard had probably never fully verbalized even to herself the sense of oppression of unhappiness caused by the restrictions of her marriage. (Solomon xx)"
Therefore, after having seen all the life around her Mrs. Mallard begins to realize that “she would live for herself (237).” She begins to accept the thought of a new, free life and as she descends the stairs with her sister, someone begins to open the door. Richards “had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth (Brently’s death) by a second telegram” (236) which became ironic because the person opening the door is Brently himself. The last ironic instance is the fact that just as Mrs. Mallard’s “new life” had just begun, seeing her oppressor return had caused the woman to succumb to her heart condition. In “Desiree’s Baby” one would not expect any amount of irony. Armand had once loved Desiree despite not knowing her obscure origin, which later became ironic as his love for her dissipated. As Desiree’s baby continued to grow, it became obvious that Armand and Desiree’s child was not of the same race. Desiree noticed the change in her child while her son lay upon her bed being fanned by a slave and she “looked from her child to the boy who stood beside him, and back again; over and over” (233). As this becomes more apparent, Desiree begins to get depressed because Armand has stopped showing her any attention. He has assumed that because no one knows the origin of Desiree that she must be the one who has a member of the African American race in her family. Much like Mrs. Mallard, Desiree had part of who she was stolen by her husband. Desiree had herself stolen in the sense that Armand no longer loved her as she had once loved him. “Desiree believes that she will be able to resume her former place in her husband’s affections (Skaggs 25),” if her true identity was able to be revealed. However, Desiree asks Armand if she should return to the home she once knew with Madame Valmondé. Armand tells her to go, to which Desiree obliges, taking their son with them. However, instead of traveling the road that leads to the Valmondé plantation, Desiree walks into the field where she felt that she and her son belonged, among the slaves. Desiree disappeared among the reeds and willows of the swamp, never to be seen again. She left herself and her child to assumedly die tragically, much like Mrs. Mallard’s death having resulted as her husband’s actions; it leaves the reader to think that is the end of the