The short story titled “Desiree’s Baby” had immortalized Kate Chopin as one of the greatest writers of American realism and naturalism. The story is set against the backdrop of pre-civil war slavery in the southern state of Louisiana. …
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s Racism, Pride and Love in Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin The short story titled “Desiree’s Baby” had immortalized Kate Chopin as one of the greatest writers of American realism and naturalism. The story is set against the backdrop of pre-civil war slavery in the southern state of Louisiana. Desiree’s baby has been lauded by critics for several themes that had been pertinent to the lives of people during that period of time and explores many crucial aspects of human behavior.
Desiree and her baby are the titular characters, who in turn become the prime source of conflict in Armand’s, Desiree’s husband’s life. Pride and arrogance have been deemed as sinful traits; this notion is further cemented as the story progresses, as it causes a fall out between a couple, their families, the family’s heir and then Karma finally visits Armand, as he makes a shocking discovery about his own heritage.
Armand’s pride is a recurring theme in the short story, as he is shown a man who deems his family to be the most superior in all of Louisiana. In the story, Armand describes his family “…as one of the oldest and proudest in all of Louisiana” and even though he is already told that Desiree was an abandoned child that was then raised by the Valmonde household (Chopin, 1892). Even though, Armand knows that but he still expresses a deep desire to give Desiree his family’s name.
He was completely ready to accept her as his wife and make her the mistress of his estate. They had a blissfully happy marriage, until their child was born, whose skin color bore a striking resemblance to a quadroon, in other words one-quarter slave boy. Without giving the circumstances a second thought, Armand blamed his wife’s “Obscure background” as the prime cause behind this occurrence and did not take another second to fall out of love with her. (Chopin, 1892)
Armand scornfully dismisses her and even sends her away along with the child. Desiree is completely devastated at her husband’s change of heart and commits suicide along with her child. Armand, in a fit of rage, burns all of Desiree’s belongings along with all the letters they had exchanged during their courtship and the baby’s cradle as well. At this very moment, Armand finds another letter, from his mother to his father where he then discovers that it was his mother, who belonged to a “race that is cursed with the brand of slavery” (Chopin, 1892).
The story ends with this shocking discovery, however Desiree’s racial or familial background is left obscured, but it is understandable that Armand will finally realize that it was not his wife or child, but Armand, himself who was the ‘so-called’ blot upon his family escutcheon. Being a slave owner, Armand’s arrogance and pride is understandable, but the fact that he was so quick to turn cold towards his wife, fails to be comprehended by logic and reasoning.
His wife had been white, but he deemed her unclean for carrying the blood of slaves and never really forgave for the unconscious injury, she inflicted upon him and his family. Although, he was aware of the fact that Desiree was adopted but during their courtship, he was just too blindly in love to consider the possibility that she may be part African. After getting married to her and having a child with her, Armand let his pride ruin their relationship and completed devastated his life family life. A slightest bit of suspicion ruined everything for a happy couple and in the end it was his pride that took the biggest plunge at the discovery of his race.
The entire premise of the short story may not seem relatable to the contemporary society, as miscegenation is acceptable to the society now. On the other hand, this story clearly affirms as to why racism is a baseless and immoral practice. Pride in one’s familial or racial background may be a valuable trait, but eventually it is individual character and achievement that truly make one who he or she is and not his family. Armand lost a devoted and loving wife because of it and completely tore apart everyone involved in this affair.
Chopin, Kate. “Desiree’s baby”. Public Broadcasting Service Library. 1892 Web. 4th October, 2012.
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