Desiree's Baby: Explication

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Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby”

Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby” is a short story set in Louisiana in the late 1800’s. Slavery was still prominent in society, and the color of a person’s skin chose what caste he or she would occupy. Desiree has married Armand Aubigny, a wealthy bachelor. The origin of Desiree’s family is shrouded in mystery; she was found by her adoptive parents, the Valmonde’s, when she was young. Years later, Armand and Desiree have a son, whom they both adore. But after three months, their son has gotten darker in skin tone. Armand instantly recoils from both him and Desiree. His coldness towards them eventually leads Desiree to the bayou, their son in hand. After weeks of no contact from his wife, Armand burns all of her things, where he stumbles upon a letter from his mother. It reveals that he is the son of a slave woman. The major theme Chopin was using throughout “Desiree’s Baby” is the impact society has on race. If a person was white, he or she was considered superior to other races. A white man could vote, own property, and run for council; though a white woman wouldn’t receive these rights until the 1960’s, she was still held in a higher position than a black woman or man. Blacks had little rights given to them, and it still took a hundred years before they were viewed as equals. Mixed children weren’t exactly rare; some white slave owners thought little of taking advantage of one of their black house-keepers or slaves. If the child had lighter skin, sometimes they were treated better. Such is the case with Armando. By the end of the story, Chopin drops a bomb that leaves her audience with a chill: Armand’s mother was African-American, meaning Armand was a slave’s son. It wasn’t Desiree who gave their son his dark skin, it was Armand. Armand was incredibly narrow-minded, as he no longer cares for either his wife or his child because he thought Desiree’s genes gave their son dark skin. Although intolerance towards blacks wasn’t...
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