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Essay on Formalistic Analysis of Kate Chopin's Desiree's Baby

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Formalistic Analysis of Désirée’s Baby  



The short story “Désirée’s Baby” is told by a third person omniscient point of view. The narrator, whose character or relationship to the story never receives any discussion, is a seemingly all-knowing observer of the situation. Although the narrator does not take sides towards issues that arise during the course of the text, her general view does shape the overall characterization of the white Southern society. The text exhibits interesting clues such as word choice, tone and mood, reappearing symbols and references that enrich the story and intensify its underlining message.


The choice of French names and words reminds the reader of the stories’ setting and helps create an irony that is echoed throughout the text.  Before the narrator explains the use of the French language and the settlers’ origin, it becomes evident that the characters in discussion are of French heritage.  Names and words such as “Madame Valmondé” and “Coton Mais” reveal some of Louisiana’s history as they develop the setting of “Désirée’s Baby”.  The French word “corbeille” also appears a number of times in the story and stands for the English word corbeil, which is a sculptured ornament in form of a basket that Armand buys for his lady before he can marry her.  Such reverences reveal the traditional practices and expectation of early settlers in colonial Louisiana.  Another interesting aspect of the French influence upon the short story is how certain people are named.  “La Blanche”, a neighbor of the Aubignys’, is a mulatto whose quadroon children are looked down upon for their darker skin color.  “La Blanche” ironically means “the White” and as Armand falsely blames his wife to be of Negro heritage ...


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The short story “Désirée’s Baby” is physically divided into two episodes.  The first, and longer one, discusses the setting and everything to the point where she leaves her husband.  The second episode being the scene of the bonfire when Armand becomes enlightened about his heritage.  The first episode is therefore the story of young Désirée and her struggle.  While the following focuses in on her husband and how he will have to come to terms with his new reality.  The end does not reveal if the young couple has a future or even allow a glimpse of Armand’s immediate reaction.  In any case the he will have to overcome his racial hatred and come to terms with his ancestry.  Recognizing the different parts, analyzing images, and making note of reoccurring references, word choice and change in tone may offer insight into the artistic nature of a literary work. 


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