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Regarding the juxtaposition of Desiree's mother with Armand in "Desiree's Baby,"...

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greenpantsuits | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted January 6, 2013 at 4:18 AM via web

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Regarding the juxtaposition of Desiree's mother with Armand in "Desiree's Baby," what does each character represent, and what is significant about this contrast?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:17 PM (Answer #1)

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In Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby," although both are French Creole, Madame Valmonde, a woman, is a second-class citizen under the femme covert laws of this culture. Thus, her social position is dependent upon that of her husband. On the other hand, Armand Aubigny, who as a young man has been defined by his father's name, is now defined as a gentleman solely by his name and his position in Creole society.

When Monsieur Valmonde finds the sleeping babe in the front of their home and carries in to his disconsolate childless wife, he is concerned mainly with his loved one's happiness. And, as she grows Desiree brings great joy to both, and later becomes the object of Armand's passion. In this passion, Armand tells M. Valmonde that he does not care about Desiree's obscure origin, just as Mme. Valmonde also has given it no heed when she adopts the child.

What did it matter about a name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest in Louisana?

However, when a child is born to Armand and Desiree, a child who bears an amazing resemblance to the little mulatto servant, Madame Valmonde, who comes to visit, cannot help noticing this resemblance.  Anxiously, she asks Desiree, "What does Armand say?" Then, when the baby is three months old, Armand accuses Desiree of not being white and belittles her by intimating that the baby is a quadroon like LaBlanche's children. 

....he no longer loved her because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name.

Distraught, Desiree writes to Mme. Valmonde, who urges,

"My own Desiree: Come home to Valmonde; back to your mother who loves you.  Come with your child."

Clearly, then, Madame Valmonde represents the mother possessive of unconditional love, a woman realistic about her adopted baby, who loves her and her child for no other reason that they are hers, while Armand is the Creole aristocrat who defines himself by his social status and is unable to surmount racial prejudice, even for the sake of those he has loved.

 

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