Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin – Regionalism and Irony
This lesson is appropriate as a stand-alone short story study or as part of your unit on Realism/Regionalism. The lesson includes the complete text of Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby,” introductory notes on background, regionalism, and irony, guiding questions (with answer key) for students to answer as they read, and a ppt with two short response prompts. It could be used for sub plans. All documents are fully editable.
Story Summary: Désirée is the adopted daughter of Monsieur and Madame Valmondé, who are wealthy French Creoles in antebellum Louisiana. Abandoned as a baby, she was discovered by Monsieur Valmondé lying in the shadow of a stone pillar near the Valmondé gateway. She is courted by the son of another wealthy, well-known and respected French Creole family, Armand. They marry and have a child. People who see the baby have the sense it is different. Eventually, they realize that the baby's skin is the same color as a quadroon (one-quarter African)—the baby has African ancestry. At the time of the story, this would have been considered a problem for a person believed to be white.
The story itself is very rich, with lots of twists, and could be analyzed for a variety of literary elements.
When I teach this story, I intro the lesson concepts we will be focusing on and read the first few paragraphs aloud, clarifying the cultural information and the plot. I then have students read the story on their own and answer the questions.
Typically, about half of my students “get” the twist in the story and half miss it. You will hear the exclamations from the ones who closely read! We then go over the questions as a class, read the pertinent passages, and assist everyone in figuring out the plot. Students want to discuss this story!
Depending on how well students understood the concepts of regionalism and irony, I assign one of the prompts as an exit slip or homework.