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How does "Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin fit into the Realism genre with its themes and...

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nrshows | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted October 13, 2010 at 8:04 AM via web

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How does "Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin fit into the Realism genre with its themes and local color?

Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 13, 2010 at 9:44 AM (Answer #1)

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Realist writers of the mid-nineteenth century were concerned with socio-economic conflicts and the dynamics of marriage and family life.  "Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin, written in 1893, reveals these concerns as well as evoking a tableau of life in Creole Louisiana. 

In Chopin's story, Desiree self-worth and self-exploration is inextricably connected to her husband.  When their baby reveals traits that are similar to the quadroon nursemaid and servant, Desiree, who was a foundling, is suspected to have Negroe blood in her.  Her husband Armand, who is from a very prominent Louisiana family, is appalled and drives her from their home, telling her the shame that she has brought to him has killed his love.  In despair, Desiree takes her baby and walks into the bayou; she is never heard from again.

Clearly, the socio-economic dynamics of Louisiana influence Armand to the point that he rejects his wife lest he not be accepted by his society. The marriage was lost because Desiree has brought shame upon her husband. With Desiree's social decline, suicide follows just as with the main characters of the Realists Tolstoy and Flaubert whose Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary follow the same fate. Of course, the ending of "Desiree's Baby" with Armand discovering that his mother was a Negroe, is a surprise that demonstrates the irony and nebulous nature of racism.

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