Did Armand truly love Desiree?
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Love — and what this means to different people — is inherent in “Desiree’s Baby.” Armand hardly seems to truly love Desiree; rather, he “had fallen in love with her . . . as if struck by a pistol shot.” It seems more a passion that he feels for Desiree, not any deep-seated feeling or emotion. Indeed, Armand has known Desiree for years and never felt any feelings for her. Although the softening effect their marriage has on Armand is apparent — and this could derive from love — Armand seems to view Desiree more as a possession, something that reflects his status. After the birth of their child, Armand’s love for Désirée quickly dies, for she brings shame upon his name. That his love for her could so easily be transformed demonstrates its superficial quality. For her part, Desiree truly loves Armand. Her world seems to hinge on his thoughts and feelings. When he begins to avoid her, “Desiree was miserable enough to die.”
Armand, though he later finds out the truth about his own heritage, wants Desiree to leave his house because she has besmirched his name through the child she bears. When Desiree leaves his house, she does not return to the Valmondes, as her mother implored. Her decision to walk off into the bayou with her child, to certain death, shows her inability to forge an identity for herself. She feels cut off from both of her former lives. She also may be grappling with the knowledge of her child’s newly discovered African-American ancestry, though there is little evidence of that in the story. Instead, what seems to trouble her the most is her rejection by Armand. That her reaction to his rejection is so extreme demonstrates the depth of feeling she has regarding his love and her identity both being taken from her.
I totally agree with the prior post - very well done and insightful. The only thing I might add is that if you are preparing an assignment on this, you could use some other examples from literature where characters ignore social class distinctions for love. In Armand's case, he is unable to do this and, as the prior post points out, he could not really love Desiree if he is willing to not only let HER go, but their child as well, just because of his concerns about what he thinks are her vague racial origins.
For example, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester from Wuthering Heights love each other, and Mr. Rochester is far above Jane in social class. Mrs. Dewinter and Maxim Dewinter of the novel Rebecca is another example. And in real life, King Edward VIII gave up the throne of England to marry a commoner, Wallis Simpson. There are many other examples in life and in literature.
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