Formalistic Analysis of Désirée’s Baby
The short story “Désirée’s Baby” is told by a third person omniscient point of view. The narrator, whose character or relationship to the story never receives any discussion, is a seemingly all-knowing observer of the situation. Although the narrator does not take sides towards issues that arise during the course of the text, her general view does shape the overall characterization of the white Southern society. The text exhibits interesting clues such as word choice, tone and mood, reappearing symbols and references that enrich the story and intensify its underlining message.
The choice of French names and words reminds the reader of the stories’ setting and helps create an irony that is echoed throughout the text. Before the narrator explains the use of the French language and the settlers’ origin, it becomes evident that the characters in discussion are of French heritage. Names and words such as “Madame Valmondé” and “Coton Mais” reveal some of Louisiana’s history as they develop the setting of “Désirée’s Baby”. The French word “corbeille” also appears a number of times in the story and stands for the English word corbeil, which is a sculptured ornament in form of a basket that Armand buys for his lady before he can marry her. Such reverences reveal the traditional practices and expectation of early settlers in colonial Louisiana. Another interesting aspect of the French influence upon the short story is how certain people are named. “La Blanche”, a neighbor of the Aubignys’, is a mulatto whose quadroon children are looked down upon for their darker skin color. “La Blanche” ironically means “the White” and as Armand falsely blames his wife to be of Negro heritage he sarcastically exclaims that her hands are “as white as La Blanche’s”. The name of the Aubignys’ plantation, L’Abri, also holds foreshadowing irony. L’Abri means “shelter” in French. It is ironic how Madame Valmondé shudders at the sight of it and finds it to be a “sad looking place”. In the beginning the plantation virtually becomes a place of harmony and goodness since it is the home of Désirée and her joy. As the plot advances, however, this previously mentioned grimness begins to break through, until the young mother is forced to leave the plantation. Armands’ prestigious estate therefore proves to be less than a shelter for his sensitive and gentle wife.
The tone and mood created throughout the text and its drastic shift greatly affect the readers’ feelings on the situation. The first couple of paragraphs depict the newlyweds as a happy couple, filled with the joy of the birth of their son. As Désirée’s mother visits her daughter appears to be overfilled with happiness. The descriptive details that first introduce the reader to Désirée make the young woman and her surroundings appear overly idyllic. She enthusiastically tells about her husband...