Desiree's Baby

Give the plot summary of "Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby" involves love, race, and prejudice.  As in most of her stories, her heroine Desiree finds herself at odds with what she wants in life and receives no satisfaction in the end. This story is told through a third person narrator, who  relates the events without emotional  commentary.

The story begins with a visit from Madame Valmonde, who is Desiree's adopted mother.  Madame Valmonde thinks back about how Desiree became part of her family. Desiree had been abandoned by her real parents, and Monsieur Valmonde had found her and brought her home. They had no other children; they felt that Desiree had been sent by God.

On this day, Madame has come to see Desiree who had a baby about a month before.  Desiree and her husband had known each other since he was eight years old. Armand Aubigny, her husband, came from a wealthy aristocratic family. When Desiree was eighteen, Armand saw her and immediately fell in love with her.  When they married, both were passionately in love. Madame Valmonde told Armand about her background, but Armand did not care.

When Madame Valmonde sees the baby, Desiree is delighted. However, it is obvious that her mother is disturbed about something she sees in the child.  Everyone sees but Desiree. 

Desiree tells her mother that Armand is the best father possible and that he is so proud:

Oh, Armand is the proudest father in the parish, I believe, chiefly because it is a boy, to bear his name; though he says not - that he would have loved a girl as well. But I know it isn't true. I know he says that to please me.

Desiree desperately loves her husband, yet she fears his scowling moods.

When the baby is about three months old, Desiree finally sees what her mother had seen. A young mulatto [mixed race] boy is fanning the baby.  Desiree sees that the baby has many of the negroid features similar to the other boy. 

In despair, Desiree asks Armand about the baby.  Coldly, he tells her that the baby is not white, which means that Desiree is not white. Thinking back, Desiree had noticed that her husband had become more aloof.

Desiree writes to her mother begging for her help. Her mother tells her to come home. 

When she confronts Armand and tells him her plans, he tells her to take the baby and leave. He wants her to go.  In shock, Desiree picks up her baby and walks out into the fields, wearing only her nightgown.

Typically, Armand thinks only about why such a thing could have happened to him. He did not love Desiree anymore because she had brought this shame to his family.

Later, foolishly, Armand burns everything belonging to Desiree and the baby. He finds some letters. Opening one of them, Armand discovers it is a letter from his mother to his father:

But above all," she wrote, "night and day, I thank the good God for having so arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery.

It was not Desiree who carried the Negroid blood but Armand. He has destroyed everything that he loved because of his arrogance.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial