Desiree's Baby | Study Guide

Kate Chopin

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Desiree's Baby | Symbols


The Baby

In spite of the title, "Désirée's Baby" is not actually about a baby. In the story the baby's only role is to be looked at, and in spite of the characters' focus on his physical features, the author never describes his appearance. Instead, she shows how people act surprised, horrified, or angry at the way he looks. His father explains why: "The child is not white," he says, speaking the words as a condemnation. Shortly afterward, Armand rejects his wife, implicitly rejecting the child as well. In grief and fear, Désirée takes the baby into the bayou, where they presumably die. In this sequence of events, the baby symbolizes both innocence and powerlessness. He is totally without guilt in the events that lead to his death and utterly incapable of exerting influence over the social forces that cause this tragedy.


Fire in the story is strongly associated with Armand's passion and destructiveness. At the beginning of the story, Madame Valmondé makes a figurative comparison between Armand's love and "a prairie fire, or ... anything that drives headlong over all obstacles." This is presented in the context of a young man's youthful passion; even so, it sounds dangerous. At the end of the story, fire is more clearly connected with destruction as Armand directs his slaves to light a bonfire and burn all of Désirée's and the baby's possessions. Here, the youthful passion from the beginning of the story has been distorted into an angry force that erases the evidence of an earlier passion.

Questions for Symbols

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