Desiree's Baby, By Kate Chopin Essay

1304 words - 5 pages

Throughout time, humans struggled with issues of conformity and individuality. In the modern world, individuality is idealized, as it is associated with strength. Weak individuals are usually portrayed as conforming to society and having almost no personal ideas. In “Desiree’s Baby”, a short story, the author Kate Chopin deals with the struggles of African descendants in the French colonies during the time of slave labor. The protagonist is a white woman named Desiree who is of unknown origin and birth as she was found abandoned as an infant at an aristocrat’s doorstep. Eighteen years after her discovery, she and a fellow aristocrat, Armand Aubigny, fall in love and get married. They soon have a child, yet conflict arises when the child is discovered to be black. The young family is destroyed when the baby’s father, Armand, refuses to accept the child. In “Desiree’s Baby”, Chopin demonstrates through Armand’s conflicts how weak humans conform to environmental norms.
Armand is shown to be a weak character by his internal conflict himself. Armand’s weakness is initially shown by the way he treats his slaves. Although there is evidence to support that Armand is a man characteristic of the time, he seems to actually have benevolent feelings towards slaves. However, he is too weak express these feelings and instead acts in a rather strict manner: “Young Aubigny’s rule was a strict one, too, and under it his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they had been during the old master’s easy-going and indulgent lifetime,” (Chopin 9). In addition to his internal conflict about treatment of slaves, this quotation tells the reader a great deal about Armand’s general weakness as an individual. Besides the fact that his forcefulness is strict by the narrator’s standards, it was strict even for 18th century Louisiana: Armand’s rule is described as far stricter than his father’s rule in the very same passage. From this, the reader understands that Armand is attempting to assume a persona of the powerful aristocratic slave-owner. However, in this attempt, Armand demonstrates his very weakness: he is insecure and so must prove his strength. Another example of Armand’s weakness lies in his attempt to destroy all evidence relating to his relationship with Desiree. Armand feels that a marriage to a potentially black woman could be damaging to his to his place in society so he burns all of the evidence of her presence in his life: “In the centre of the smoothly swept back yard was a great bonfire, “ (Chopin 13). Although it is true that during the setting of the story, such a marriage could have been damaging, if he truly were a strong character, he would have defended his own beliefs and maintained his marriage. A final example of Armand’s weakness is in his discovery of a letter from his mother to his father and the reactions implied by the author. The letter carries details about Armand’s own race and how he is actually black. Armand’s implied reactions are...

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