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In "Desiree's Baby," why doesn't Madame Valmonde take action as soon as she realizes...

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animalover4546 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 3, 2012 at 7:25 PM via web

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In "Desiree's Baby," why doesn't Madame Valmonde take action as soon as she realizes the truth about the baby?

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 13, 2012 at 5:34 PM (Answer #1)

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Kate Chopin's short story "Desiree's Baby" opens describing Madame Valmonde's trip to L'Brai to visit her daughter and grandchild. The opening also provides Madame Valmonde's recollections regarding the limited history of Desiree. Her adoptive parents found the little girl and assumed she had been left by traveling gypsies. Desiring a child, the couple raises Desiree as their own.

As the story moves forward, readers come to find out that Armand has fallen in love with Desiree and marries her. Soon after, Desiree has a child. Her mother, Madame Valmonde comes for a visit a few months into the infant's life. She is rather surprised at how much the baby has changed. 

"This is not the baby!" she exclaimed, in startled tones. French was the language spoken at Valmonde in those days.

Madame Valmonde's recognition that the baby is not completely white is immediate. There are a couple reasons why Madame Valmonde does not take action upon this epiphany.

First, Madame Valmonde recognizes the fact that they (herself and her daughter's family) live in a very prejudice world (given Armand holds slaves). If it were brought up that the baby may be partially black, the child could be exiled by its father.

Second, Madame Valmonde knows that Armand is very proud of his name: "What did it matter about a name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana?" Given that his name meant everything, a part black child would bring shame to his name. Madame Valmonde is not willing to risk her daughter's marriage (at this point).

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