Desiree Baby by Kate Chopin - Essay Example

The writer of the essay "Desiree Baby by Kate Chopin" suggests that in this story we see the continuation of Chopin’s most central theme, the evil that follows when one human being gains power over another and attempts to make that person conform to preset standards or expectations. …
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Desiree Baby by Kate Chopin
Download file to see previous pages Armand spends much time in the cottage of a slave named La Blanche, whose name suggests her skin color. Still, she is of mixed race, so she is a slave, and the quadroon boy who fans Desiree’s baby is probably the son of Armand and La Blanche. (Wolff, 123-33) The most such a woman can hope for is to be treated well by her master and to be his concubine because she will never be his wife. Among Creoles, who pride themselves not only on their racial purity but also on their French heritage, the proper pedigree is especially important.
The characters’ world is also one in which women, like blacks, are second-class citizens. Women have certain fixed roles—daughter, wife, mother. Desiree’s world is small, moving between the neighboring plantations of her foster parents and her husband. She passes her days inside, and Armand is free to come and go as he pleases. Once her husband rejects her, Desiree must choose between disgrace and death; despite Madame Valmonde's offer of sanctuary, Desiree would remain an outcast. (Toth, 201-08)
Still, “Desiree’s Baby” might have ended differently. The code of the outside world impinges on Armand but does not force him to act as he does. When he married Desiree he claimed indifference to her status as a founding, but he is not, in fact, strong enough to reject the prejudices of the world. (Fitz, 78-91) Indeed, he stands for those very attitudes that he seems to ignore: He defines himself by his pedigree and by his role as master of his slaves and his wife. Desiree is desirable only so long as she appears to be a valuable possession. Once he believes that she is not "authentic," he loses interest, for he never regards her as a fellow human being with needs of her own. She is there, he believes, to satisfy him; when she no longer does so, he discards her. (Wolff, 123-33)
In her poem "Because," Chopin writes, "Tis only man/ That does because he can/ And knowing good from ill,/ Chooses because he will." Armand has a choice: He can love Desiree for what she is (or thinks she is) as his father loved his black mother, or he can let his pride overrule that love. Chopin admires the character who defies convention, who is sufficiently strong to reject the false standards of his time and place. Armand's inability to surmount prejudice leads to the tragedy of the story. (Toth, 201-08 ...Download file to see next pagesRead more
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