Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As the story opens, Madame Valmonde is on her way to visit Désirée and her new baby. As she makes the short trip to the nearby plantation, Madame Valmonde thinks back to the time when Désirée was herself an infant. Her husband had found the child lying asleep near a pillar at the entrance to the Valmonde plantation, probably having been left there by a party of Texans who had passed by that day. Childless themselves, the Valmondes adopted Désirée.

Désirée grows into a beautiful woman, and, when she is eighteen years old, Armand Aubigny falls in love with her. When he proposes, Monsieur Valmonde reminds Armand that her parentage and ancestry are unknown, but Armand dismisses all objections. After all, he can give her one of the finest names and lineages in Louisiana.

They soon marry, and at first their life together is happy. Armand, a harsh man toward his slaves, becomes more humane; following the birth of their first child, a son, Armand grows even kinder. Shortly thereafter, however, Armand becomes crueler than ever. He also stays away from home for long periods of time, and when he is at home he shows no affection for Désirée.

One afternoon, as Désirée sits listlessly in her room, she glances at her child lying on the bed. A quadroon slave is fanning the child, and suddenly she is struck by the similarity in their features. As soon as her husband arrives, she asks for an explanation. Armand replies that her...

(The entire section is 511 words.)