woman holding a baby walking out into the bayou

Désirée's Baby

by Kate Chopin

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Who are the dynamic characters in Kate Chopin's "Désirée's Baby"?

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The story's title character is Desiree, a half-black woman.

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A dynamic character has to undergo some kind of fundamental and permanent change throughout the course of the story. Desiree may be quite saddened by Armand's behavior—obviously she feels that she cannot go on living—but an emotional response that is in keeping with who she was early in the story...

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really doesn't qualify as a change. Desiree is "beautiful and gentle, affectionate and sincere" from beginning to end.

Armand, however, does undergo such a change, making him the only dynamic character in the story. When he first sees Desiree, his passion "swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire, or like anything that drives headlong over all obstacles." It would seem that his feelings for Desiree cannot be altered by anything. When reminded of her "obscure origin," Armand "looked into her eyes and did not care." Marriage and, then, fatherhood "softened Armand Aubigny's imperious and exacting nature greatly."

However, as his son's skin begins to darken, he changes yet again. He touches his wife "coldly" and speaks to her "cruelly" when she asks about their child and he explains that Desiree is not white. "Moreover he no longer loved her, because of the unconscious injury that she had brought upon his home and his name." At first, his love had seemed like a force of nature, unable to be stopped or altered, and he didn't care about his wife's origins. However, he changes so much that he becomes callous enough to cast her and their child out of his home.

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A dynamic character in literature

undergoes an important inner change, as a change in personality or attitude.

Kate Chopin’s melancholy story “Desiree’s Baby” focuses on the young woman Desiree Valmonde and the wealthy creole aristocrat Armand Aubigny. The story’s setting is the old south before the Civil War. Most of the story takes place on Aubigny’s plantation L’Abri.

The theme of the story revolves around racism--a belief that race is the most importany factor in human traits, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. These pre-conceived notions impact all of the lives in this story.

Armand is a dynamic character. He changes in his attitude from an adoring husband and father to a hateful, prejudiced bigot.  What created this change?

Desiree also changes. She was happy with her family. When Armand changed toward her because he thought that she had a Negro heritage, her world evaporated before her eyes. She leaves the house with no shoes and only her flimsy nightgown and her baby.

Desiree is a foundling child.  She was left by her parents and found by Monsieur Valmonde when she was about two. No one knew anything about her background. The Valmondes had no children and raised Desiree as their own. 

Desiree was a beautiful girl with a sweet, gentle spirit. Armand saw her one day and fell in love with her. He asks her father for her hand in marriage. Monsieur told Armand about her background which he said did not matter because he will give her his family name.

After they married, they were extremely happy. Desiree gave birth to a son which greatly pleased Armand. It changed and softened him. Desiree was so happy that she did not notice that the child was different.

When the baby was about three months old, Desiree looked at the child and for the first time saw that he had Negroid features. She asked Armand what was wrong with the baby.

Armand, she panted once more, clutching his arm, “look at our child. What does it mean?”

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

“It is a lie; it is not true. I am white! Look at my hand.”

Desiree’s mother told her to come home and bring her baby.

Armand vehemently told her to go and take the child with her. “Yes, I want you to go.”

Desiree picked up her baby and disappeared into the willows along the bayou and did not come back.

Armand burned everything that belonged to Desiree and the baby.  As he searched through his things, he discovered a letter that his mother had written. It stated:

“…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 but Armand who had the black heritage. He had ruined all of their lives because of his ridiculous prejudice.

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