In this lesson, you will learn what point of view Kate Chopin uses in her short story ‘Desiree’s Baby,’ and how this point of view is displayed throughout. Afterwards, test yourself with a brief quiz.
When you tell a story to someone, how do you tell it? If it’s about you, you probably use a lot of personal pronouns, such as ‘I’ and ‘me.’ If it’s about someone else, you probably use third person pronouns, such as ‘she’ and ‘he,’ as well as the person’s name. These are both examples of different points of view from which you can tell a story. The point of view of a story is the perspective from which it is told. That is, who is telling the story, and how much of the characters’ thoughts we can actually see. Every story has a point of view, and it can tell help give us further insight into the story and the characters. This lesson will look at what point of view is used in Kate Chopin’s short story ‘Desiree’s Baby.’
Types of Point of View
To understand what point of view Chopin uses in her story, we must first understand the types of point of view. There are four main points of view.
- 1st person uses ‘I’ and ‘me’ (outside of dialogue) and is told from the perspective of a single character.
- 2nd person is far less common in literature. It uses ‘you’ and is giving the point of view of someone being addressed.
- 3rd person limited gives the point of view of a single person. We can see their thoughts as well as their actions, but they are referred to by their name or by 3rd person pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she.’
- 3rd person omniscient gives the reader the thoughts and actions of many characters. They are all referred to using their names or third person pronouns, but we can see what they are thinking as well as what they are doing.
So, which did Chopin use? Kate Chopin’s story ‘Desiree’s Baby’ is written from a 3rd person omniscient point of view. Let’s look at how this is displayed in the story.
One way to tell the point of view of a story is to look at how the actions of characters are described outside of dialogue. The sentence ‘I was running late, so I picked up my pace,’ would indicate 1st person. By contrast, the sentence ‘She was running late, so she picked up her pace,’ indicates 3rd person.
Let’s look at an example sentence from ‘Desiree’s Baby’: ‘Madame Valmonde had never removed her eyes from the child.’
This sentence describes the actions of Madame Valmonde using her name and a third person pronoun (her), which indicates a 3rd person point of view. Looking throughout the story, we can see that the actions of every character are described this way, which tells us that the story is indeed written in 3rd person.
Once you have determined a story is 3rd person, you still have two options: limited or omniscient. To determine which is correct, you have to look at the thoughts of your characters. If it is 3rd person limited, you will only ever be given the thoughts of one character. If it is 3rd person omniscient, you will be given the thoughts of more than one character. Let’s look at a few example sentences from ‘Desiree’s Baby.’
1. ‘It made her laugh to think of Desiree with a baby. Why, it seemed but yesterday that Desiree was little more than a baby herself. . .’
In this sentence, we are seeing the thoughts of Madame Valmonde as she goes to visit Desiree.
2. ‘Desiree awoke one day to the conviction that there was something in the air menacing her peace.’
Here, we are given Desiree’s thoughts and feelings. This conviction that she has is not something that could be observed by an outside party.
3. ‘He thought Almighty God had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him. . .’
Finally, we see into Armand’s mind regarding the whole situation. In all three of these examples, the reader is given insight into what a character is thinking. Since we look into the mind of three different characters, this tells us definitively that the point of view of the story is 3rd person omniscient.
The point of view of a story is the perspective from which the story is being told. This perspective might be 1st person, 2nd person, or 3rd person. Within 3rd person, you could have 3rd person limited or 3rd person omniscient. Kate Chopin’s story ‘Desiree’s Baby’ is told from a 3rd person omniscient point of view.
We can tell that it is 3rd person from the use of names and 3rd person pronouns, rather than using ‘I’ (which would indicate 1st person) or ‘you’ (which would indicate 2nd person). Throughout the story, we are given the thoughts and feelings of several of the characters. This tells us that it is 3rd person omniscient, since in 3rd person limited, we would only have the thoughts of one character.