Short Story Sunday: Désirée’s Baby by Kate Chopin

For my second short story of the year, I again come back to an author I already know. Last year, I read Kate Chopin’s most famous work, her novella The Awakening. Aside from this, her main literary output is in short stories, so she became a natural choice for this series.

In “Désirée’s Baby,” Chopin sticks to her Louisiana setting, but this time with a stronger emphasis on slavery and racism. Even before making clear that these are the main themes of the story, she sets the scene with conspicuous depictions of household slaves before moving into the main plot. At first, I entertained the thought that their depiction was the casual aside of a southern white author, but it was actually a deliberate lead-in for the topics Chopin chooses to address.

The ending seems characteristic of Chopin in tone, but with a plot twist worthy of O. Henry. On the whole, this story is a to-the-point commentary on the peculiarities of American racism in Chopin’s signature style: a melancholy tale about a woman navigating society and motherhood. If you liked The Awakening, you’ll probably appreciate this, and if you haven’t read it, “Désirée’s Baby” is solid as a more concise introduction to the author.

What short stories should I add to my list? Let me know in the comments!

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