woman holding a baby walking out into the bayou

Désirée's Baby

by Kate Chopin
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Why didn't Désirée go back to Valmondé?

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When Desiree confronts Armand about their baby's appearance and asks him what it means, Armand tells her, "It means the baby is not white. It means you are not white." Although the story doesn't say so, Desiree must have written her mother after that and either told her what had happened and/or asked for advice. Desiree's mother sends a note telling her she should come back home to Valmonde, her mother's home. Desiree brings the note to Armand and asks him if he wants her to go, and he says he does. However, Desiree does not pack her things, and when she leaves the house with the baby, she walks off toward the bayou rather than taking the road to Valmonde. The story doesn't say why she made the choice she did. Like many things in the story, the details of her decision are left for the reader to ponder.

Because Desiree had now been categorized as not white, in other words, black, her social standing in her community would have been severely diminished. With the laws in effect in the South at the time, she would have been denied basic rights. Not only that, but all her social connections would be severed. She would no longer be able to fit into white society, and she would not be accepted among blacks either. Even moving into her mother's home would not have given her a life; she and her son would have lived in isolation with no prospects for a happy future. It is very likely that Desiree thought through that scenario and chose to end her life and her baby's life rather than face a life of disgrace and ostracism. The irony, of course, is that she probably was fully white; Armand had African heritage from his mother, although he probably does not realize that until Desiree has killed herself and the baby. 

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