woman holding a baby walking out into the bayou

Désirée's Baby

by Kate Chopin

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Why does Armand believe that Désirée is the reason the child is not white?

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It seems that Armand Aubigny believes that his wife, Desiree, is the reason their baby is not white because her history is unknown. Desiree had been a foundling, encountered by Monsieur Valmonde, the man who would become her adoptive father, asleep at the gateway to his property. She was of a "toddling age," and when she awoke, she began to cry for her "'Dada.'" The narrator says that most people believed she'd been left, on purpose, by a group from Texas which had been passing through earlier that day. Rather than investigate Desiree's provenance, however, Valmonde's wife decided that Desiree must have been "sent to her by a beneficent Providence to be the child of her affection" since she was unable to bear any biological children. They, therefore, raise the girl as their own daughter from that point on.

It is possible, however, the Armand knows that it is he who is the cause of his child's dark skin color. In the end, we see him burn a letter written to his father by his mother, a black woman. It is unclear whether or not he knew about that letter before he threw Desiree out or if he only found it when he was cleaning out a drawer.

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Desiree was abandoned as a baby and was taken in by Monsieur and Madame Valmonde, who were a wealthy couple living in Louisiana. The background of Desiree's parents is unknown. When Armand, another child of a wealthy landowner, sees Desiree, he falls in love with her instantly. The two eventually get married and have a son. At first, the family is extremely happy together, however as the child grows people begin to question his appearance. Desiree is upset because Armand has become cold and distant to her. One day as the young baby is being fanned by a young slave boy, Desiree realizes the baby has a dark complexion like the slave boy. Desiree demands that Armand tell her what it means and his answer destroys her happiness.

"It means," he answered lightly, "that the child is not white; it means that you are not white."

Desiree writes to her mother demanding that she tell everyone that it is not true. Madame Valmonde tells Desiree to come home and bring the baby with her. Desiree asks Armand if that is what she wants and he tells her yes. Desiree walks off into the swamp with the baby and is never seen again. Later on Armand is having all the baby things burned and throws the letters Desiree wrote to him in the fire. In the drawer with all of Desiree's letters is a letter from his mother to his father that explains everything. 

"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."

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