Who is the main character in "Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin?
Desiree Aubigny, nee Valmonde, is the main character of this story because its action primarily follows her. When the story begins, the exposition provides background information concerning Desiree and how she was a foundling adopted by the Valmonde family. Though there is some exposition concerning Armand Aubigny as well, the rising action begins shortly thereafter, with a return to a focus on Desiree. Madame Valmonde goes to see Desiree and the new baby, whom she has not seen for four weeks, and she is apparently shocked by the child's coloring. Tension rises as Desiree experiences "a strange, an awful change in her husband's manner, which she dared not ask him to explain." He will not meet her gaze, stays away from home, and treats the slaves even more meanly than he used to. "Desiree was miserable enough to die." Soon, she realizes that her child's skin tone is similar to that of the "little quadroon" boy who fans her and the baby, and she becomes speechless in her fear, with "her face the picture of fright."
Desiree approaches her husband only to be rebuffed by him because, as he says, she is not white, and so their child is not white either. He blames her. She writes to her mother, who tells her to come home, and, in the story's climax, Armand tells her that he does indeed want her to go. In the story's falling action, she walks off into the bayou swamp and, presumably, dies there with her child. The resolution focuses primarily on Armand's life after Desiree's disappearance and the letter he reads from his mother to his father, a letter that reveals his own mixed racial heritage. We do not know whether this is new information to Armand or not, and we do not see his reaction to the letter; however, the implications for Desiree are clear: she was not the origin of the baby's dark skin, and she was cast out for no reason at all.
Kate Chopin's short story "Desiree's Baby" has at the center of the conflict the child of Desiree Valmonde and Armand Aubigny. Yet, the baby in the title is designated as Desiree's only. This psychologically slanted title leads the reader to focus upon Desiree as the main character whose life changes after she has married and gives birth to a baby. For, the child resembles the mulatto slaves of the Aubignys, Zandrine and the young boy who fans the baby one day.
That the responsibility for the baby's appearance is believed to be because of the mother is due in part to the unknown background of Desiree who was adopted by the Valmonde's, and also to the patriarchal society of the Creoles in Louisiana. For, any consideration that Armand Aubigny's ancestry could be in question is dismissed by him. Yet, here lies the irony: Armand Aubigny, whose father has one of the great aristocratic names in the area, is the child of a woman of African descent, a woman who dies in Paris and who has left behind a letter to her husband that reveals the truth.
As the main character of "Desiree's Baby," Desiree undergoes great conflict and she meets a climax: Armand wants her to leave his house. She does so in despair, never learning that her husband has duscovered the truth about the baby's appearance.