Desiree’s Baby, Essay Example

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Essay

 “Desiree’s Baby”: Layers, Shadows, and Shock in the South

The obscure origins of Desiree are what the plot eventually turns on.  Without them, there is only a story of a happy wife and mother.  Beyond this, they serve the purpose of revealing layers in human connections that have great meaning.   As Madame Valmonde was unconcerned with Desiree’s real background, it is felt that none could have changed her feelings for the girl.  With Armand, it changes everything, and this goes to the true weight of the origins as impact.

Chopin presents the deaths of Desiree and the baby indirectly, never overtly stating that they die at some point in the fields.  More mysteriously, she presents it as part of a sequence beginning with Desiree’s understanding of her heritage.  There is the confrontation with Armand leading to her writing to her mother, the way Armand responds to Madame Valmonde’s reply, the taking of the infant, and the leaving.  It moves as a dream does, which reinforces the unreal sense of her life Desiree now has, and this allows Chopin to underscore the contrast between innocent love and unforgiving bias.  At the same time, the reader is allowed a margin of doubt; since Desiree herself was rescued as a baby, perhaps another rescue awaits her.

In a sense, Chopin foreshadows the surprising end  of the story by offering no actual hint of anything wrong at all.  The reader is given a good idea of Armand’s nature as imperious, but nothing indicates that this is anything more than a son’s behavior being more extreme than his father’s.  It is tempting to claim that Armand’s harsh treatment of the slaves goes to some secret awareness, but there is no real basis to draw the conclusion, just as his changed behavior to Desiree and the baby need not reflect anything more than a white Southerner’s insistence on racial purity, and his sense of shame when he sees it violated.  All this lack of foreshadowing, however, adds impact, as Armand’s real disgrace is then a shocking retribution on him.  More exactly, signs of what is to come would have weakened the final moment for the reader, so Chopin chooses to stun her reader as Armand is stunned.

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