Desiree's Baby | Study Guide

Kate Chopin

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Desiree's Baby | Character Analysis



Désirée is a foundling who is raised by a loving family and who eventually marries a man who is highly respected, largely because of his family's proud heritage. Throughout the story, Désirée has little personal agency. She does not, for example, appear to have any influence over her husband's anger and violence against the slaves on their plantation. The only time she attempts to argue with anyone is when her husband tells her that she and her baby are "not white." In that case, she eloquently points out how white her features are, and she says her skin is whiter than his. When Armand rejects Désirée, she disappears and presumably kills herself and her baby rather than go on living.

Armand Aubigny

Armand Aubigny may genuinely love Désirée so much he does not care about her mysterious parentage (until their child shows signs of having mixed-race heritage), or he may know all about his own mixed-race heritage and choose to marry a foundling in order to have a scapegoat in case his child appears African American. When the child develops African American features, Armand coldly rejects them both. At the end of the story, Armand reads a slip of paper that says his mother had African blood. If Armand is learning this for the first time, then he is learning that his racism has really been a form of self-hatred as well as the cause of his wife and son's death. If he is rereading information he already knew, then he may be attempting to atone for his sins or reaffirming his decision never to tell anyone the truth.

Madame Valmondé

Madame Valmondé is Désirée's adoptive mother. A product of her society, she has a callous attitude toward slaves, accepting white cruelty toward slaves in a matter-of-fact way. Madame Valmondé seems to genuinely love Désirée. Although the older woman is clearly concerned when she first recognizes African American features in the baby, she says she still loves her adoptive daughter and would welcome her back home. However, she does not do as Désirée asks and deny Armand's story that Désirée is "not white." In this way Madame Valmondé signals that Désirée will not be able to escape the racial label Armand has affixed to her and the baby.

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