Societal Boundaries in Kate Chopin's The Story of an Hour and Desiree's Baby
As humans, we live our life within the boundaries of our belief systems and moral guidelines we were raised with. Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and “Desiree’s Baby” tells the story of two women who live according to those societal boundaries.
American author Kate Chopin (1850–1904) wrote about a hundred short stories and two novels in the 1890s. Most of her fiction is set in Louisiana and most of her best-known work focuses on the lives of sensitive, intelligent women. After her father's death, Kate's family included her widowed mother, her widowed grandmother and her widowed great-grandmother. Perhaps this provides a glimpse of what would ultimately influence Kate Chopin as a writer-- the lack of male role models and men as central figures in her life as she matured. This lack would also prevent her from experiencing what was basically a fundamental social concept of her time--the tradition of submission of women to men in all social spheres, but especially that of marriage (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kate_Chopin)
In 1888, after suffering grief from the deaths of her father, mother and her husband, Chopin turned to creative writing as an outlet. She was not particularly well known as a writer during her life. She began writing seriously at the age of 39, when she would have already experienced many maturing life situations. She found her central focus rapidly, and wrote stories whose intriguing characters and settings often disguised the seriousness of their themes. Not greatly involved in the politics of her time, she was nonetheless influenced by such classic masters as Maupassant who
awakened her to ideas such as personal liberty and freedom. (http://empirezine.com/spotlight/chopin/chopin1.htm)
Chopin's characters in these two short stories are struggling for a sense of self and purpose. Themes as self-reliant women as protagonists, post Civil War racism, male/female relationships and what would eventually become known as male chauvinism are common. These were difficult times for many women because of the domination of men over them. A woman was expected to act and behave in ways that were submissive to men in every aspect of their life. Indeed, a woman’s life revolved around her husband and his needs and desires. Women had very little say in their own ambitions or desires. Behaving in non-conventional ways would mean being shunned from society. However, one woman’s world revolves around and for her husband while another dreams of a life free of marital boundaries.
Nevertheless, Kate Chopin uses two types of irony in “The Story of an Hour” to reflect her views. Situational irony refers to the opposite of what is supposed to happen, and dramatic irony occurs when the reader knows something that the rest of the characters in the story do not know. The irony in...