The Prevalence of Irony in The Story of an Hour and Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin

In the two stories that Kate Chopin wrote, The Story of an Hour and Desirees Baby, she uses irony though much of both stories. And the way she uses irony in both of these stories are quite similar. They both end up with the same tragic result of a woman dying in their seemingly male dominated world. In the short story The Story of an Hour, Chopin leads the reader to believe that the story may have a happy ending. But the fate of Mrs. Mallard, the main character, had the same ironic ending as Desiree, the main character in Desirees Baby.

In Kate Chopins short story The Story of an Hour, there is much irony. Louise Mallard is about to be told about the death of her husband, Brently Mallard. This is for sure to take a toll on an old woman with a bad heart condition. One can start to feel the irony right after she is told of her husbands death. She retreats to her room alone where she sits in a comfortable chair and stares out the window. It is what she sees out the window that shows some irony of the story. Through the window, Louise sees the tops of trees that were all aquiver with new spring life. (182) The irony here represents that now Louise will have a new life. She now felt that she could live her life the way she had always wanted. There would be no one to live for her during those coming years; she would live for herself. (182) Patches of blue skies showing through the clouds, the delicious smell of rain in the air, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves. All these descriptions are irony that represent the new life that Mrs. Mallard was about to live. But this is when the story takes a different turn. 

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Just as Louise was about to start living her fresh new life, Kate Chopin shocks the reader when Louise discovers that her husband was not dead after all. At the sight of seeing her husband standing at the door, Louise dies. The doctors said she had died of heart disease-of joy that kills. (183) One has to believe that the real irony of this story is that Louise had lived under this man unhappily but still stayed with him. She had loved him-sometimes. Often she had not. (183) But she had never really lived her life the way she wanted. Now that her husband had died, she was free and was about to life her life totally different. Up until the sight of her husband, she was free and dreamed about living her life the way she wanted to live it. Even though the characters in the story seem to think that Mrs. Mallard died from the joy of seeing her husband alive, the reader knows differently. Mrs. Mallard died because she had just experienced freedom, and she knew that she would never experience it again as long as her husband was alive.

Desirees Baby is a story about a relationship that is filled with love and prejudice. Desiree, adopted by Madame and Monsieur Valmonde, has no known bloodlines. Beliefs were she was left at the gateway by a party of Texans. Years later, the grown Desiree marries a wealthy Armand Aubigny which is the owner of several slaves. They had seemed very happy together at first. Armand was not worried about her obscure origin. He was reminded that she was nameless. What did matter about a name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana. (178) But three months after the birth of their first child, tragedy introduces itself into the relationship. The baby turned out to have mixed blood and Armand averted from having anything to do with the baby and Desiree. Being from a rich family that owned slaves, Armand could not let the impurity of his wife ruin his family name. 

Desiree denies his accusations. Look at my hand whiter than yours, Armand. (180) This point in the story is where Chopin uses very much irony in the story. The reader automatically believes that Desiree is of a mixed background. After all, she was abandoned and had no proof of her background. Armand surely had no mixed blood considering his family heritage. Desiree is forced to leave with their child where she heads toward a sluggish bayou never to bee seen again. Armand made the decision to part with his wife and child in order to save the integrity of his family name. The irony the Chopin uses in the story is that later on, Armand finds a letter written by his mother that reveals that he is the one of mixed race and not Desiree. The reader can sense the turmoil that Armando must have felt after learning this secret.

In these two short stories, Kate Chopin uses irony at the end of each story that gives the reader a shocking effect. In The Story of an Hour, Mrs. Mallard is finally going to be able to live a brand new life. Then seeing her husband standing in the door kills her knowing she will never be able to live that life. And in Desirees Baby, Armand discovers that he is the carrier of the black gene that causes their baby to be of a mixed race. But it was too late because his wife and child had already left and died. Both stories have a surprise ending that leave the readers in a state of disbelief.

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The Prevalence of Irony in The Story of an Hour and Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin. (2022, Feb 01). Retrieved from