"Desiree's Baby" is Kate Chopin's most well-known short story and most anthologized piece of work. The story takes place in southern Louisiana and her writing reflects her Creole-French descent. Chopin begins the story with a descriptive quote, "when she reached L'Abri she shuddered at the first sight of it, as she always did. It was a sad looking place...Big solemn oaks grew close to it and their thick leaved, far-reaching branches shadowed it like a pall" (185). The preceding quote gives the reader an eerie feeling and foreshadows an unpleasant ending to the story. Throughout "Desiree's Baby," Kate Chopin uses symbolism to convey her themes of racial prejudice, unequal gender roles, and social hierarchy in a patriarchal society.
During Chopin's lifetime, African Americans were considered inferior to whites and often worked as slaves for the wealthy, white families in the south. Early in the story the narrator describes the scenery of the plantation, L'Abri, and says, "young Aubigny's rule was a strict one, too, and under it his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they had been during the old master's easy-going and indulgent lifetime" (185). This shows Aubigny's egotism and apathy toward his slaves. His treatment of the slaves as possessions rather than human beings reveals that Aubigny has no consideration when dealing with blacks. Chopin allows the audience to see Aubigny's sudden change in character once he falls in love with Desiree as a foreshadowing mechanism. Aubigny's fickleness is shown later in the story after he notices the uncanny resemblance between his child and the slave boys. Aubigny refuses to believe that he comes from African descent and instead forces ...
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...eral important issues in her short story, including the nature of racism, social castes, and the fulfillment of a woman's identity. Chopin portrays Desiree as a woman whose self-worth is controlled by her husband. Kate Chopin is now recognized for her initial examination of sexuality, individual freedom, and exploration of the consequences of actions. Chopin successfully shows the themes of racism, gender prejudice, and social castes by using elements such as symbolism in the short story "Desiree's Baby." Chopin incorporates irony into her story in order to magnify important issues such as discrimination and the rise of feminism in a patriarchal society.
Chopin, Kate. "Desiree's Baby." Literature and the Writing Process. 7th ed. Eds. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 2002.
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