Symbolism in Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin

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ave a child who grows to appear with a heritage as a ‘quadroon’, the happiness of their marriage is shattered and Desiree disappears into the bayou as Armand destroys the evidence of their love. In the end, a letter reveals that it is Armand who had a mother with the heritage that gave their child the appearance of a ‘quadroon’, not Desiree. The story of Desiree’s Baby written by Kate Chopin uses symbolism to show the way in which prejudice and slavery affect her characters and in order to discuss the nature of race, gender, and love in a compelling story with a surprise ending that challenges conceptions.

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Because there is doubt about the origins of Desiree, there is a fear by the Valmondes, the people who took her in as she was left on their doorstep, that she will have a mixed race heritage. As she is loved by them, they do not care, but they fear for her life as a wife of a rich plantation owner who has many slaves. Although he implication of this is that she will be unacceptable as a wife for Armand who claims to not care because he loves her so much. Chopin writes that “Armand Aubigny riding by and seeing her there, had fallen in love with her. That was the way all the Aubignys fell in love, as if struck by a pistol shot” (Chopin 219). When she bears him a child who appears to be of mixed race, his heart turns on her and he drives her from their home.

The discussion that Chopin introduces is based upon the difficulties of identity and race as it was interpreted in the time contemporary to her writing. Armand loves her as long as he has no knowledge of her genetic history, but when he believes he has discovered that she has an ancestor that might be ‘black’, he turns on her and rejects this aspect of her identity. The imagery that Chopin evokes as he falls in love with Desiree evokes a violent and explosive idea through the “pistol shot” (Chopin 219).

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