Kate Chopin dared to write and voice her opinions in a time where women were not be able to do so. Perhaps she can be called a woman before her time, a woman who wasn't scared to tell it how it was. After years of negative criticism and her death, Chopin's literary work began to receive praise. In Hall's biography of Chopin it is said, "Chopin's works were reassessed and began to receive serious critical attention in the late 1950's (141)." Chopin has been criticized for her ironic endings that are similar to Maupassant, scorned for voicing opinions of miscegenation, and admired for her local color writing. As shown in many of Chopin's works, including Desiree's Baby, Chopin uses ironic plots to draw her readers in.
By making the story have a twist, Chopin takes the reader and makes them believe one thing only to find out that the actual truth is the opposite. "Like many of Chopin's stories, "Desiree's Baby" builds to an ironic reversal reminiscent of Maupassant. Although some critics claim that Chopin's frequent dependence upon this device weakens her art, others defend its effectiveness (Hall 141)." Person and Poupard say, "Some critics argue that frequent dependence upon this technique weakens the artistry of such a story as "Desiree's Baby," but other critics regard it as an inevitable outgrowth of the types of plots and themes Chopin used during the early period of her career, which was devoted to popular-magazine fiction (56)." This negative criticism of Chopin's ironic plots also suggests that she learned her technique from her teacher Maupassant while she studied under him. However, Joseph Reilly explains, "But she enriched her innate talent for story telling by studying his virtues and making them her own: economy of words, beginnings which start the reader off like a shot from a pistol, and infallibly "right" endings (131)." Chopin took what she learned and made it her own. There were many differences and similarities in Chopin and Maupassant. Reilly's critical analysis explains that while Chopin and Maupassant's literary styles are similar, they are completely different: "The important thing with Kate Chopin as with Maupassant is character rather than situation, the response of men - and even more of women - to the passion of love.
Maupassant's interest is in the blase, the sophisticated, when confronted by the ingenious and unspoiled (or the reverse), while Mrs. Chopin's is chiefly in young men and women in the first blush of romantic passion... [the elderly appear], but youth is almost always at their side, softening their decline with tenderness, profiting by their experience, or implying the onward flow of life and its unquenchable hopes (132)." Chopin opened herself up for negative criticism in many of her short stories and novels. Her short story "Desiree's Baby" is the only story she wrote that dealt with the theme of miscegenation, or the socializing of different races. "And while the story has been accepted as characteristic of Chopin's work, it is in several ways unusual or unique - being the only one of her fictions to touch upon the subject of miscegenation, for example (Wolff 125)." Through this short story Chopin discusses the many problems faced by African Americans in the past and tells the truth of what really happened between masters and slaves. It brings out many of the economic and social problems associated with slavery.
"At the most superficial level in "Desiree's Baby," there are distinctions that attend coloration, differences of pigment that carry definitions of social caste and even more damning implications about the "value" of one's "identity (Wolff 127)." Through this story Chopin asks readers to look deeper into the story to find the truth. "Thus the dilemma of "color" must ultimately be construed emblematically, with the ironic and unstated fact that human situations can never be as clear as "black and white" (Wolff 127)." The letter Armand finds at the end of the story says "our dear Armand will never know that his mother... is cursed with the brand of slavery (Chopin 368)." This little secret destroyed lives and Wolff explains it well when she says, "Much of the effect of this tale derives from the understatement that Chopin employs to render Desiree's annihilation and Armand's inescapable, internal hell. Even more, perhaps, the effect comes from the economy with which she captures the precariousness of the human condition- the persistent shadow-line that threads its way through all of the significant transactions of our lives (133).
In human existence there exists secrets and lies that can destroy people physically and emotionally. "In her day Chopin was regarded as one of many popular local colorists noted more for skillful regional depiction than for insight into human nature (Hall 141). Dennis Poupard and James Person agree with Hall on this, " The short stories... established Chopin as an important writer of local-color fiction (55)." Perhaps Chopin's childhood can be accredited with her unbelievable talent to portray her characters so well. "Chopin also spent much time with her family's Creole and mulatto slaves, whose dialects she mastered (Person 55)." At first Chopin was not considered a local color writer. It wasn't until all her works were printed that she finally got the recognition she deserved.
Now her works receive praise and Reilly even recognizes her by saying, "What Hamlin Garland did for the middle west, Mary Wilkins Freeman for New England, Thomas Nelson Page for the middle south, and Miss [Mary] Mur fee for the Tennessee mountain country, Mrs. Chopin did for the dwellers along the sluggish marshy streams that meander among the sugar plantations of upstate Louisiana (130)." Chopin made a difference with her local color writing. Kate Chopin was a magnificent writer. Her literary work did not receive the attention and praise that it should have while she was alive but since her complete works have been published she has been given recognition. Lina Mainiero writes in a biography of Chopin, "C.'s superb psychological insight, especially into the lives of her women, her vivid descriptions of Creole and Acadian life, and her deep-felt concern with human relationships and social institutions will preserve her reputation long after the initial excitement of her rediscovery by contemporary critics has passed (360)." Works Cited Chopin, Kate. "Desiree's Baby." The Heath Anthology of American Literature.
Ed. Paul Later. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002. 364-368. "Kate O'Flaherty Chopin." American Women Writers Vol. 1.
Ed. Lina Mainiero. New York, NY: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. , 1979. 358-360.
Hall, Sharon K, ed. "Kate Chopin." Twentieth Century Literary Criticism Vol. 5. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1981. 141. Person, James and Dennis Poupard, ed.
"Kate Chopin." Twentieth Century Literary Criticism Vol. 14. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1984. 55-56.
Reilly, Joseph J. "Something about Kate Chopin." Of Books and Men. Julian Mesne r Inc. , 1942. 130-136. Wolff, Cynthia Griffin.
"Kate Chopin and the Fiction of Limits: 'Desiree's Baby'." The Southern Literary Journal. Vol. 10 (1978): 123-133.