Professor Gary Walker
American Literature II
March 6th, 2014
Desiree’s Baby and Southern Social Structure
The short story Desiree’s Baby by Kate Chopin provides a sobering depiction of how the dark forces of prejudice and social hierarchy tore apart a plantation owning family in the state of Louisiana. Desiree’s character is that of a lady who carries the burden of being submissive to a domineering husband, a role she keeps until the very end of the narrative. Desiree is portrayed as an agent of light so to speak throughout the plotline but is seriously blinded by her doglike allegiance to her husband Armand, who is in essence her master and her livelihood. The struggle for female independence is a signature theme in a number of Chopin’s works and was a struggle for women in the South during this time period (McCullough 413). Armand’s dominance over Desiree and her overall sense of well-being is certainly a reflection of the issue of sexist prejudice that Chopin chose to write about throughout her literary career. Chopin also depicts the racial prejudice in the South by revealing how blacks on the plantation are treated and by illustrating how severe the consequences were of Desiree and Armand’s baby being African American was. His dark personality coupled with the societal norm of male superiority enabled this toxic relationship structure to occur and helped shape the events following the discovery of the child being black. Armand’s role of master over the plantation workers was based on skin color and his birthright to the plantation which was reflective of Southern culture during the time period (Toth). It is abundantly clear that Desiree’s Baby serves as a microcosm of how societal hierarchy's and traditions that are rooted in elitist prejudice have a poisoning effect on those who are entangled in their grip.
Desiree’s unwavering love and codependency upon her husband Armand ultimately proves to be unjustifiable and plays a significant role in her demise. “When he frowned she trembled, but loved him (Chopin 417).” This direct excerpt from the story best depicts just how delusional Desiree’s affection for her husband was and paints a crystal clear picture of the overall state of their relationship. Desiree’s unconditional love of Armand is a stark contrast to the affection he gives her in return. Armand seemingly returns Desiree’s pure and permanent love for him with an affection that is conditional and calculated (Toth). Armand fell in love with Desiree in an instantaneous fashion that occurred eighteen years prior to the events of the story (Chopin 415). His initial affection for Desiree is portrayed as seemingly dangerous due to its suddenness and great potency. The husband’s love for Desiree is present throughout their marriage up until his discovery that the child is of African American decent (Chopin). It becomes evident that Armand no longer views Desiree as lovable and that she is now detrimental to his societal standing...