Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Chopin has been described as a local colorist, and certainly most of her stories are set in a particular geographical area that she examines socially and physically. Unlike such local colorists as Sarah Orne Jewett and George Washington Cabel, though, Chopin did not write to preserve the past, nor did she focus on the conflict of past and present that characterizes the typical local color story. Further, her work shows no nostalgia for a previous era. Only five of her stories lack a contemporary setting, and “Désirée’s Baby” demonstrates no fondness for the antebellum period.

The carefully defined setting is, rather, a laboratory. What happens when one puts certain characters in a particular world? Like a scientist, Chopin observed their reactions and reported her results without obvious emotion. Significantly, she called this story “Désirée’s Baby,” not “Désirée,” as though seeking to deflect sympathy from the central character. Also, the baby is the crucial ingredient in this experiment: Give Armand and Désirée a child of color and then watch how they behave.

They behave badly, each blaming the other. Neither knows the truth, but because Armand is the more powerful, Désirée is disgraced and banished. Chopin does not moralize; she merely reports. That clinical detachment makes the final lines all the more forceful, as the reader grasps the enormity of Armand’s mistake.

Désirée's Baby Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.

Beer, Janet, and Elizabeth Nolan, eds. Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Bonner, Thomas, Jr. The Kate Chopin Companion. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.

Boren, Lynda S., and Sara de Saussure Davis, eds. Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992.

Koloski, Bernard. Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1996.

Petry, Alice Hall, ed. Critical Essays on Kate Chopin. New York: G. K. Hall, 1996.

Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne, 1985.

Stein, Allen F. Women and Autonomy in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.

Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race, and Religion in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin. New York: William Morrow, 1990.

Toth, Emily. Unveiling Kate Chopin. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.