How did Armand's discovery of the fact that their child was not white affect his relationship with Desiree in Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby"?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin presents a sensitive subject for the nineteenth century south---interracial marriage.  The child born to a slave and fathered by a white slave owner was an accepted aspect of life in antebellum south.  Yet, the marriage between a Negro and a white man would never have been tolerated in the class system of Armand Aubigny.

Armand had been warned about Desiree’s unknown past.  Her adopted father told him the complete story. In his lust and love for Desiree, Armand said that it did not matter. Later, when he thinks that she is of mixed race, Armand forgets his words and completely turns his back on Desiree and the baby.

Throughout the story, Desiree’s heritage is questioned.  Since her social class and racial heritage are unknown, Desiree fights a losing battle when Armand thinks that she is unworthy along with her child because the child has Negroid features.  It never crosses Armand’s thinking that it is he who has the black heritage. 

Then a strange, an awful change in her husband's manner, which she dared not ask him to explain. When he spoke to her, it was with averted eyes, from which the old love-light seemed to have gone out. He absented himself from home; and when there, avoided her presence and that of her child, without excuse…Desiree was miserable enough to die.

When Armand and Desiree admit that their child has the same features as the boy who is fanning the baby, there is no hope for Desiree.  Armand chooses his pride and social status over his wife and child.  He tells her to leave his house and take her baby with her.  He so easily gives up his family that the reader must question the love that Armand ever has forDesiree.