Desiree's Baby has been set in the days before the abolition of slavery in the big farms/plantations owned by whites and tendered by black slaves in the Southern State of Texas. Monsieur Valmonde finds an abandoned baby by the wayside. His wife, Madam Valmonde, does not have a child of her own thus; she takes the baby and names her Desiree. Madam Valmonde and her husband, Monsieur Valmonde raise the child, until she turns 18 years-an age considered ripe for courtship and marriage (Chopin). Her beauty, elegance, and white skin attract Monsieur Aubigny, a plantation owner and widower who just returned from burying his wife in France. This essay provides an insight into alienation in relationships, the consequences of man's evil institutions like slavery and racism.
Aubigny, the main character, feels a strong sense of alienation in his relationship with black slaves, a people that he greatly despises. They are an inferior race, generally a non-people in his eyes. Aubigny a rich "white" landowner is endowed with wealth and the right color. In the society that all the characters live, white is deemed acceptable and good. Anybody with a black skin is a social outcast, and they should be rejected to live the cursed life, that of slavery. Aubigny's parents were white, and they instilled into him the "right" color that an endowed person should have or associate. His family is one of the initial sources of alienation. His upbringing constantly placed him on top of blacks, and this is why he denies his baby because it is turning black. Madam Valmonde also exclaimed that Desiree's baby was not "the baby" implying that the baby's origin and color will not be accepted by society as that of Aubigny's.
The society, immediate family, and close friends shape the status of an individual. The way people behave is largely affected by; how they perceive themselves and what society will think about them. Madam Valmonde refuses that Desiree's baby is not the kind of child that society will accept. Society cannot accept that both Augbiny and Desiree, both white can have a black offspring, the cursed race. Augbiny cannot accept living with a woman who has given birth to an inferior being (Chopin). He cannot imagine what his close friends, family, and society will think about him. This is why he decides to alienate himself from both wife and child before society judges his behavior. His actions are dictated by society and not by self-worth. If society does not accept blacks, then he too cannot accept them. He burns everything that belongs to Desiree and her baby to get rid of any information that links his private life to blacks.
This shows that he cannot outdo the code of conduct in his white dominated society. Desire too cannot imagine what society will think of her black baby and she chose to drown with him in a swamp. Madam Valmonde plays the role of society. She knows that the real father, Aubigny, will not accept the baby. She tries to express this to Desiree although she does not understand. She also plays the part of society that will accept the rejected. She willingly takes her daughter and grandson back. This shows her motherly love and concern for the unhappy daughter. Failure to accept her adopted daughter and grandson may cause her to be labeled as "selfish and inhuman" by society. The letter from Augbiny's mother to his father serves the role of a wakeup call into reality. It jerks Augbiny into knowing that whatever he has rejected (black) is in his blood and in fact the source of his life (mother) (Chopin).
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A popular culture metaphor taken from the story is the one that describes Armand Aubigny's features. He is described as a having a dark and handsome face that had not been disfigured by frowns. This metaphor implies that black is handsome although society does not accept people of color (Chopin).This metaphor shows the irony in society's code of acceptance. A person can be black and handsome and yet society had rather accept white and ugly because the later comes from a superior race while the earlier originates from an inferior race.
Aubigny lacks a complete sense of direction. He knows that the origin of Desiree's parents is not know and yet drinks into her beauty. He cannot accept the color of slaves thus results to deceit and wickedness to save his face in society. He is very ignorant of his looks and denies his looks. The fact that he does not acknowledge his ignorance, wants to satisfy the code of acceptance of society makes him ruin his relationship with his family. Ironically, He begins to treat the slaves fairly because he realizes that he has a black baby!
Aubigny's chooses the wrong path of letting go of his family because of the color of the baby. The baby just like his parents did not choose where to be born and in what color. Desiree also chooses the wrong path of killing herself and son. This because she feels that society cannot accept her and they may label her as a "failure." She does not understand that one cannot satisfy the demands of society and being black is human. My sympathy goes to the baby who dies because of something that he does not have any power over. As for the married couple, they deserve what they get; they let society dictate everything that they believe in without realizing that nothing is perfect in the eyes of man.
Society and its representatives like race, marriage, and slavery are faulted in this story. During the pre-colonial times, a slave could only marry a slave and a white to a white. However, whites could have sex with slaves with or without their consent. This resulted to colored people who could not be accepted because of their mixed heritage and the act of a white male siring with a black slave (one of the lowly acts). This story highlights racism, its effects on people who are victims and cannot accept it like Desiree and Augbiny.
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In this story, there is a great conflict between reality and fantasy. Augbiny fantasizes that he should get a girl instead of a boy. He further fantasizes that the beauty and fair skin of Desiree will help him to get a purebred white child who does not have any black flaws. Madam Valmonde also fantasizes that the child should have been white she says that openly "...this is not the child" (Chopin). She knows that if the child is not white, then there is nothing foe Desiree. This is why she accepts both daughter and grandson.
Women/girls are victims of their own making. They fail to understand that beauty or color alone cannot lead to a happy life. They do not comprehend their needs and the reason to live. Desiree argues with Augbiny that she is whiter than Augbiny's. She writes a letter to her mother telling her that she is unhappy because of the mistreatment from her husband. This shows that she cannot accept to live as black, with a black child in a society that labels black as bad and cursed. In a case like these, men like Augbiny take advantage of misunderstandings and capitalize on them making women unhappy. They strain their relationship because they feel that they are following the code of acceptance of society. Women are also victims of societal demands. Desiree cannot be happy without a man and she does not want to imagine how society will see her. This makes her end her life and that of her baby in a tragic manner.
A man like Augbiny is a victim of society and its institutions like slavery. Man spends so much time building racism and slavery and in the end, these two things swallow their lives into the unknown. Racism and slavery are meant to serve the interest of whites but it is ironical that they again destroy him especially when Augbiny discovers that he too is black. Augbiny expects his fantasies to be true thus lays all his hopes in color. If it is now white, he does not want anything to do with it. He falsely expects that society will accept him now that he has done away with family only to discover that he too is black.
The moral issues that arise in this story are wickedness, deception, and misunderstanding. People shudder at the thought of being black or even being associated with the cursed race. Augbiny does not understand that color and origin of a human being can neither be changed nor be discarded. Desiree discards her color, that of her son and her origin in death. This implies that slavery and racism are things that are very evil in society and should be discarded or they will eat into the human soul. Blacks are human beings and color is only skin-deep and is dictated by their genes; things that none can suppress or change (Schneider). Madam Valmonde accepts her daughter and son. She is that part of society that embraces what the elites have rejected. Madam Valmonde's letter to her daughter show the humanity, acceptance that can be found in the heart of the human race.
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The wickedness of the institution of slavery and racism is clearly depicted in this story. Augbiny's mother prays that his son should never discover that he has a black mother. It clearly shows the way whites deny that blacks are human beings and a part of society. Death is very wicked because it embraces even the innocent like Desiree's baby. It does not discriminate between the ignorant, rich or color. It just takes everything that comes on its way.