Racism And Hypocrisy In Desiree’s Baby By Kate Chopin

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In Kate Chopin’s, Desiree’s Baby, the reader explores themes such as racism and hypocrisy. Throughout the story it is revealed that Desiree’s ancestry is unknown as she was taken in by a wealthy family as a baby in Louisiana. Desiree falls in love with a boy from a wealthy family who claims he does not care for her origin, so they wed and she gives birth to a baby. Though after the baby arrives secrets begin to unravel and Desiree’s husband begins to feel uneasy. Today, the reader would recognize her husband as the antagonist, because his story ends with him appearing as a close-minded hypocrite.

The main theme the reader recognizes is the racism and segregation. When the historical context is taken into account, we see how racist Desiree’s husband Armand comes across after the situation with the child. The story takes place in southern Louisiana during the Antebellum period, taking place prior to the civil war, therefore many years before racial integration. This of course is the reason Armand Aubigny is very close-minded. At the time, people were very much against people of color. They were still working for the whites and they were not respected at all. Interraccial relationships were frowned upon greatly. In the story, those of french descent were very much prominent in Louisiana and they were highly respected and wealthy in the state.

Those of color worked for them, even children, as read in the story. “One of La Blanche’s little quadroon boys-half naked too-stood fanning the child slowly with a fan of peacock feathers.” Therefore when Armand sees the baby, and realizes he is not fully white, his feelings toward Desiree and the baby drastically change. When the baby was first born he was delighted and very happy he would have an heir to carry his name, but as the baby ages throughout the story he becomes cold and mean to Desiree, leading him to kicking her out along with their baby.

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The story has many symbols throughout it, such as the house, the stone pillar, and the bonfire. The narrator describes the house L’Abri, where Desiree lives, as a sad cold looking place. There had not been the essence of a mistress at the house for a long time. The way she describes the house as somber and gothic represents the sadness and despair that has taken place there and the misfortune that will eventually take place there. At the beginning of the story it is said that Desiree was found outside the Valmonde house under a stone pillar, many years later, Armand sees Desiree stood against the same pillar and he instantly falls in love with her. The stone pillar represents the nurture and care from the Valmonde’s, besides her mysterious origin, and later when she meets Armand it shows his love that is more of a conditional type of love that he has for her. Later, after Armand kicks Desiree out of the house he burns her possessions and the letters they had written each other during the courtship. Though as he is doing this he discovers a letter written by his mother to his father revealing her real identity as a woman of color. Armand realizes the huge misjudgment he made in assuming because of Desiree’s unknown origin that she is responsible for the color of their baby, when actually it was his own family. “Therefore, the bonfire not only symbolizes Armand’s desire to erase Desiree, but also acknowledges the great misjudgment Armand has made.” The bonfire symbolizes the destruction of his family, brought on by his own prejudice.

Desiree is the main character as she is at the center of the scandal that ends with her mysterious departure. The reader learns that her origin is unknown and that she is adopted by the wealthy Valmonde’s in Louisiana and lives a luxurious lifestyle throughout her life. She is very much fine with her life being taken care of by others, such as the Valmonde’s and later her husband Armand Aubigny. It can be assumed that she is not indifferent to the mistreatment of the people of color, by the way Armand runs the plantation. Even when she is being accused of being a person of color, “Desiree appears to hold similar opinions about race as her husband and the rest of society, content to benefit from slave labor and preferring to die than live with the stigma of being mixed lineage.” After Armand makes her leave their home she disappears and is never seen again, even though her adoptive mother asked her to go back to the Valmonde plantation. Armand is another main character being Desiree’s husband. Armand is very much the antagonist of this story as he is the reason his life is destroyed. His prejudiced manners lead him to banish Desiree and his child and he later finds that his own mother is the real reason his child is mixed. Though it is not revealed what happens next, the reader can assume the agony Armand experiences after finding out his family kept this secret from him for his whole life. In the story it is said that Armand is passionate in an aggressive way, and he is very harsh to the slaves, we learn that his father was actually more easy going, explaining why he was kinder to the slaves compared to Armand. Armand never knew his real family lineage until it was too late.

In conclusion, the tones of the story are quite dark and sad and they continue through the ending of the story. Kate Chopin’s usual writing style contrasts greatly to “Desiree’s baby.” This story has a lot of gothic undertones especially because of Desiree’s eventual death, and Armand’s ironic ending. The themes are still relevant today as they teach the readers not to be prejudiced.

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Racism And Hypocrisy In Desiree’s Baby By Kate Chopin. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/racism-and-hypocrisy-in-desirees-baby-by-kate-chopin/
“Racism And Hypocrisy In Desiree’s Baby By Kate Chopin.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/racism-and-hypocrisy-in-desirees-baby-by-kate-chopin/
Racism And Hypocrisy In Desiree’s Baby By Kate Chopin. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/racism-and-hypocrisy-in-desirees-baby-by-kate-chopin/> [Accessed 21 May 2022].
Racism And Hypocrisy In Desiree’s Baby By Kate Chopin [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 May 21]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/racism-and-hypocrisy-in-desirees-baby-by-kate-chopin/
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