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"Desiree's Baby," a short story by Kate Chopin, takes places in Creole Louisiana, during the period of time between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Historically, this location was known as the Antebellum South. Wealthy white plantation owners at this time were known for their possession of African slaves, and many for their cruelty to them. Racism, at this time in America's history, was a given, and it was neither unusual nor socially unacceptable to treat slaves like they were animals.
Desiree's husband in this story is such a character. He is described as having an "imperious and exacting nature." He is known for severe and strict ruling of the slaves he owns and quickness to punish them physically. Because of this, there is a tone of fear and foreboding over the short story. The slaves themselves must be fearful of their owner, but even Desiree seems cautious around her husband. She notes, whispering, after the birth of their baby that "he hasn't punished one of them--not one of them--since baby is born." Add to this tone the mystery that is established from the beginning of Desiree's ancestry, and later the mystery of her child's skin color. Both the fear and the mystery combine to create a very dark mood in this short story.
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