Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin

"Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin (1893, 7 pages)

So far I have read and posted on three of Kate Chopin's (1851-1904-St Louis Missouri, USA) short stories  and her novella, The Awakening.     Chopin's stories are normally set in the southern states of the USA, those that left the union in order to be able to continue to have slaves (among other reasons).   I find her stories to be very evocative of this era.     Her lead characters are women frustrated by the social conventions of her day.   One can almost taste the mint julips while sitting on the veranda looking out at the huge live oak trees covered in Spanish moss and dreaming of "the old days".    Her work has received a lot of attention lately due in parts to its focus on the issues of women struggling against the bonds of paternalism in the late 19th century.    "Desiree's Baby" is one of her most famous short stories.

"Desiree's Baby" is set in Louisiana in the years right after the American Civil War (best guess for the date of the story is around 1870 or so).    The plot is simple and one must acknowledge a bit of a cliche.   A baby is found abandoned on the property of a wealthy land owner.    The family adopts her as their own daughter.   The family estate employs many black workers over whom the owner of the estate enjoyed "paternalistic control".   (Many free slaves never left their posts.)   Eighteen or so years go by and the baby grows into a beautiful young woman who attracts a wealthy suitor by whom she had a child outside of wedlock (a big scandal in those days).     I do not  want to give away more of the plot.   The ending is interesting and my interest was kept throughout.    Teachers should know the story uses language that is no longer politically correct.    If this issue can be dealt with, I think it would be a good class room story.

The story can be read online  in just a few minutes.    

Mel u


Eileen said...

I've heard of this one. Oh boy. Apparently her husband was a big racist (I think he was involved with the KKK?), which is kind of surprising considering this particular story.

The only Chopin work I've read is The Awakening. Her descriptions of the Louisiana coast in the 1890s were beautifully atmospheric.

Mel u said...

E. L. Fay-very interesting about her husband-husband's do not come off well in those of her stories I have read-I agree what I like best about her work is the atmosphere of time and place she creates

Anonymous said...

I must read again Kate Chopin. I enjoyed The Awakening.

Mel u said...

Emeire-I enjoyed the prose and the atmosphere of The Awakening