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Desiree’s Baby Case

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This short story starts with a concise account about the hidden past of Desiree. For years, Desiree’s parents, Monsieur and Madame Valmondé who were among the few wealthy Creoles in Louisiana, managed to keep the painful secret from her that she was not their biological daughter. The childless affluent Valmondé couple adopted Desiree and raised her as their own child.

When Desiree turned 18, it is such an irony that Armand Aubigny discovered her at the same place where his father, Monsieur Valmondé, found her when she was still a baby. It was love at first sight for Armand that he finally decided to court and marry Desiree. But before the two get married, Monsieur Valmondé revealed the truth to Armand that Desiree has an “obscure origin.” Deeply in love, Armand just ignored Monsieur Valmondé’s revelation. The two got married and in just a short span of time they were gifted with a beautiful baby boy. Such a whirlwind romance suddenly turned gray when after three months Desiree discovers that her baby boy’s complexion was turning dark.

It was the beginning of Desiree’s sufferings. One day, her mother asked her to go back to the Valmondé household. Desiree did not expect her husband to send her away. That afternoon, she decided to leave Armand and took the baby with her.

Armand, on the other hand, discovered by accident the old letters of her mother to his father. One of the letters contained a startling revelation about the lineage of her mother. The letter revealed that her mother belonged to the “race that is cursed with the brand of slavery” (Chopin 4).

Desiree’s Baby’s author, Kate Chopin, expertly condensed a supposed to be intricate narrative into a nicely and concisely written short story. The author used flashbacks in some paragraphs to justify the history of the two main characters— Desiree and Arman. Every sentence and paragraph corresponds with each to support the author’s literary idea.

To justify the setting and theme of the story, the Chopin also used French words like “corbeille,” which means wedding presents, “mais si,” and “cochon de lait, which means a piglet that is suckling milk. This treatment aims to support the antebellum setting of the story, as well as the Parisian ancestry of the Aubigny family.

The short story can be categorized as a mixture of American naturalism and realism. The moral account of this short story implies that it is a product of naturalism, while the folk tale treatment of Desiree and Armand’s whirlwind romance suggests that it is a work of American realism. The element of tragedy can also be found in the story as it has a lonely ending.  The themes of racism and race are also essential to the moral statement of the story.

However, there are other integral themes in Chopin’s short story, such as the concept of manliness and womanhood during the time when skin color and sex were part of society’s social and moral structure. These concepts suggest the element of realism in the story. During the antebellum post-civil war area, the American society considered racial and sexual perspective as part of the societal structure. The Negro slaves were considered inferior, while the white people were regarded as society’s appointed master. This is depicted by the character of Armand who has low regard for the black people, a race that was cursed by the color of their skin. In the story, the victim of racism is Desiree’s baby.

On the other hand, the inferiority of women and womanhood are also evident in the story. Desiree is the victim of the antebellum period’s concept of “manliness.” As such, Desiree and her baby decided to leave the house which represents America’s old values, racial discrimination, and moral standards which are biased against women.

In just a very few pages, this short story of Kate Chopin was able to show a large picture of post-civil war America characterized by racism, aristocracy, and low regard for the rights and significance of women. However, at the end of the story, Chopin left a moral lesson that should be taken into account by men with great weight— that fortune has its ironic way to chastise bigoted men. And finally, the story is also about poetic justice.



Chopin, Kate. Desiree’s Baby. Lafayette, LA: Sound Room Pub, 1994

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