Desiree's Baby Themes


Race and Racism
The themes of race and racism are integral to ‘‘Désirée's Baby,’’ for prevailing ideas of Chopin's time that African Americans were inferior to whites leads to the destruction of Désirée and her baby. Armand is confident in the superiority of his lineage and his race. He comes from ''one of the oldest and proudest [families] in Louisiana.’’ Armand conducts himself in a way typical of the cruel master of southern legend. In marked contrast to his father, he rules his slaves strictly, and Désirée's delight in his initial good mood after the birth of the baby demonstrates his true nature: ‘‘he hasn't punished one of them [the slaves]—not one of them—since baby is born.’’

When the child begins to show evidence of being of mixed ancestry, Armand believes it must be Désirée's unknown ancestors who have tainted his family and brought ‘‘unconscious injury ... upon his home and his name.’’ He rejects both his wife and child because they are ‘‘not white.’’ Yet, the irrationality of such racism is demonstrated at the end of the story when Armand discovers that it is he who is of mixed ancestry, not Désirée. Such a reversal clearly shows that ideas of race, and the racism stemming from such ideas, are created by humans alone.

Love—and what this means to different people—is inherent in ‘‘Désirée's Baby.’’ Armand hardly seems to truly love Désirée; rather, he ''had fallen in love with her ... as if struck by a pistol shot.’’ It seems more a passion that he feels for Désirée, not any deep-seated feeling or emotion. Indeed, Armand has known Désirée 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 Désirée 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, Désirée truly loves Armand. Her world seems to hinge on his thoughts and feelings. When he begins to avoid...

(The entire section is 911 words.)