In Kate Chopin's short story "Desiree's Baby," Desiree Aubigny walks into the bayou with her infant son after being accused of being black and rejected by her plantation-owner husband, Armand.
Although Desiree's adoptive mother, Madame Valmonde, writes and offers her a new home, Desiree instead wanders into the marshlands and consequentially drowns with her child. Desiree chooses death over a new life away from Armand because she views Armand's rejection as a rejection from society. We learn at the beginning of the story that Desiree is an orphan, born without an identity. As a motherless child, she means nothing in the high society of plantation life until Armand falls for her:
Armand looked into her eyes and did not care. He was reminded that she was nameless. What did it matter about a name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana?
Armand, as a male and a prosperous plantation owner, gives Desiree an identity by marrying her. Her name now carries prestige because of this marriage, so when she gives birth to a child of darker complexion and is angrily cast out by her husband, she no longer has a place in society. She believes she might as well die, because her reputation––marred by what society views as her inferior race––is also dead. Shedding her white gown symbolizes Desiree's role as a social outcast.