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

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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