woman holding a baby walking out into the bayou

Désirée's Baby

by Kate Chopin

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

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1. "Desiree's Baby" is said to be an example of Howellsian (after the style of William Dean Howells) realism. Explain this concept, and elaborate on how Chopin succeeds in portraying ordinary people with ordinary problems.

2. Choose one of Chopin's other stories, such as "A Lady of Bayou St. John" or "La Belle Zoraide," and compare and contrast how the themes of love and devotion are handled in that story and in "Desiree's Baby." Include an answer to the following question: "Is devotion to an ideal more satisfying than love itself?"

3. Define irony, and examine how Chopin's use of irony in the story leads readers to a deeper understanding of her meaning.

4. Research how the political environment changed for women in the years following the Civil War. What political decisions were made that helped women move out of their position of servitude?

5. In the story, Chopin uses imagery to help characterize Armand and Desiree. Explore different types of images Chopin uses (biblical, color, etc.), and discuss their symbolic connotations.

6. Write a paper that explores the kinds of bondage which result from racism and sexism. Include historical facts and political decisions that have attempted to define and correct longstanding racial and sexual inequities.

7. Through an examination of Chopin's works, it appears that she made a woman's search for identity as her primary focus. Using Desiree as the stereotype of the woman on this search, discuss the various ways Chopin treats this theme.

8. Research the role of Southern aristocratic white women in the days of slavery. How were they treated? How did they view themselves? What values and beliefs about their roles circumscribed their lives?

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