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Compare and contrast "Désirée's Baby" and "The Story of an Hour" by Kate Chopin.

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Both stories are at their cores about women in unhappy, unequal marriages. While Mrs. Mallard and Desiree both love their husbands, they are not allowed to be their equals. Mr. Mallard dominates Mrs. Mallard; even though he is not a bad or abusive man, he is still in control of everything Mrs. Mallard does and she realizes that being widowed will allow her to take hold of her own destiny. Should she want to travel, she does not need the permission of her husband. Desiree is even more dominated by Armand, to the point where she does not stick up for herself or her own child when Armand banishes them from his life due to the child's clear mixed ancestry.

Both women face death as a result of male tyranny. Mrs. Mallard has a heart attack when her husband comes home alive, both from the sudden shock of his appearance and from her dreams of liberation being dashed. "Desiree's Baby" ends more ambiguously, with Desiree's adopted mother bidding her come home and Desiree leaving Armand's estate with the baby in her arms. However, the story implies Desiree and her baby die in the wilderness now that she is the subject of scandal and shame. Whether Desiree lives or not, though, she experiences death regardless: the death of her reputation in a white-dominated society as well as a potential literal death.

The main contrast between the stories comes from the ways male tyranny is depicted: in "The Story of an Hour," the focus is all on gendered expectations and how they limit women, while "Desiree's Baby" is more about racism. Also, of the two characters, Mrs. Mallard seems to relish the idea of no longer having a husband more than Desiree, though she also does not have to deal with scandal as Desiree will as an abandoned wife, rather than as a widow.

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Thematically, both stories show the dangers of inequality. In "The Story of an Hour," Louise Mallard's temporary embrace of her freedom from the rule of her husband—despite the fact that she acknowledges how loving he was—conveys the idea that inequality between the sexes is detrimental to both men and women. Louise has, apparently, felt quite trapped and limited by her marriage, an institution in which the husband held all the legal power and the wife none. Brently, her husband, whether he was aware of it or not, has been living in a marriage in which his wife only "loved him— sometimes. Often she had not," despite is whole-hearted love for her. Neither partner benefited, really, from this marriage as a result of the inequality which was part and parcel of it.

In "Desiree's Baby," racism compels Armand Aubigny to loathe his child, an infant who appears to have some black ancestry. If you believe that he was aware of his own heritage, then, on some level, he must loathe himself as well because he feels duty-bound to blame his wife for their child's coloring (rather than allow his...

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own heritage to become known); if you believe that he was unaware, then he grows to loathe his wife when he suspects her of having black ancestry. Their marriage and happiness are forfeit when Armand realizes that the child is displaying evidence of black heritage; he seems to feel he has no choice but to condemn his child so as to retain his own social standing. If there had been racial equality, Armand and Desiree could have continued their life together without concern for their authority and standing in the community.

Thus, each story shows the danger of some kind of social and legal inequality, though "The Story of an Hour" focuses on gender inequality while "Desiree's Baby" shows one problem associated with racial inequality.

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These two stories by Kate Chopin have a few similarities and many differences. Both stories have a young married woman as the main character: Desiree and Mrs. Mallard. Both women are under the control of their husbands and live in male-dominated cultures, and both women love their husbands. Each woman enjoys a short episode of bliss and also experiences a revelation while in her own bedroom. Desiree is blissfully happy for the first month after her baby is born, especially since Armand, her husband, becomes uncharacteristically kind towards the slaves because he is so pleased about having a son. But when the baby is about three months old, Desiree notices something unusual about the baby, something she has never realized before, when she is lying with him on her bed. Mrs. Mallard goes to her room to mourn her husband's death, and while there, she realizes that she is now free, and she relishes the thought. Both women succumb to an untimely death at the end of the story. Desiree walks ill-prepared with her baby into the bayou instead of taking the road to her family home, and the assumption of most readers is that she dies in the swamp. Mrs. Mallard learns suddenly that her husband is not dead after all and dies from a heart attack because of the shock. 

Despite those similarities, the stories are really quite different. "Desiree's Baby" is set on a plantation in the bayou country of Louisiana during the pre-Civil War era over a period of two months. "The Story of an Hour" takes place in a very short time period in an urban setting probably in the 1890s. Desiree is treated well by her husband at first, but when he finds out their child is part black, he treats her cruelly. Brently Mallard imposes his will on his wife mostly with "a kind intention," not with abuse. Desiree is a new mother; Mrs. Mallard appears to be childless. Desiree hears what is probably a lie about herself from her husband, namely, that she is not white. Mrs. Mallard hears a falsehood about her husband from a friend, namely, that he is dead. Desiree has a support system in her mother, but in the end, she refuses to go to her. Mrs. Mallard's sister, Josephine, is there for her, and Mrs. Mallard heeds Josephine's calls and comes out to her. Desiree chooses to end her own life (presumably), but Mrs. Mallard dies unexpectedly from a heart attack. Most importantly, the themes of the stories are quite different. "Desiree's Baby" portrays the cruelty produced by racial prejudice while "The Story of an Hour" explores the issues of power and freedom in marriage. 

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Compare the protagonists in the stories "The Story of an Hour" and "Désirée's Baby" by Kate Chopin.

Kate Chopin wrote in the Victorian Age of the nineteenth century.  Her subjects shocked the readers; often, her stories were not published because of the subject matter.  Racism, marriage, women's roles in society, adultery--these issues found places in her stories.

In "The Story of an Hour" and "Desiree's Baby," both heroines, Louise Mallard and Desiree Aubigny,  face problems in their marriages.  Each woman has to confront an unsatisfactory resolution to her dilemma.

Louise Mallard, a pretty, young woman with a heart problem, discovers that her husband has been killed in an accident. Initially grief-stricken, she finds an unusual feeling welling up inside her:

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under the breath: "free, free, free!"

Her grief becomes secondary to her realization that she is free from the restraints of marriage.  Over-protected and sheltered because of her illness,  Louise is overjoyed that she will be able to make her own decisions.  She loved her husband sometimes, and she knew that he loved her.  But this was different. Freedom was happiness.

As Louise and her sister walk down the stairs, the door opens and it is her husband.  Louise falls to the floor, dead from "the joy that kills."  [Through Chopin's use of dramatic irony, only the reader knows what that real "joy" is.]

In Desiree's story, this young wife tackles a completely different problem in her marriage.  Desiree was abandoned as a child and adopted by a loving couple, the Valmondes.  At the age of 18, she has become a beautiful woman, courted by a handsome, young aristocrat, Armand Aubigny.  Mr. Valmonde shares Desiree's background with Armand, but at this time, nothing matters but his love for Desiree.

After they are happily married, Desiree gives birth to a son.  Armand is ecstastic about his son until the child begins to show sign of Negroid features.  The child is bi-racial.  When Desiree realizes that her child is a mulatto, she believes as does everyone that it is her unknown heritage that must be the problem.  Armand banishes both she and the baby from the house.  Desiree wanders off into the bayou and leaves the reader with an unknown outcome.

Armand foolishly burns everything that had to do with the baby and Desiree.  While doing this, he discovers a letter from his mother to his father:  

'But above all,' she wrote, 'night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.'

It is Armand that is bi-racial.  Because of his arrogance, he lost everything that mattered to him.

Both women struggle in their marriages.  The men in the relationships were dominant.  The women were there to serve the man. Few men asked or even cared about their wives' opinions.  This was particularly true in the "Old South" when women were to be cherished, but not included in decisions.  To these men, women were made to serve their husband. 

Louise and Desiree loved their husbands.  However, one wanted freedom, and one was forced to freedom.Each woman's outcome satisfied no one, not even the reader.

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