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Desiree’s Baby: Born from a Tainted Love

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    Kate Chopin, an American author of short stories and novels, depicts the life of Armand and Desiree’s baby in a racial community that focuses on the color of an individual in the standards of superiority ideals. It is clearly emphasized that in Kate Chopin’s, literary works she explores the notion of gender roles, attitudes towards race, and by particularly focusing on a woman’s identity which are truly highlighted in the short story, “Desiree’s baby”. Desiree’s baby symbolizes Armand’s and Desiree’s love tainted by racism, demonstrating a notion that the offspring produced from the foundation of love is consumed by the racial superiority in a society clearly underlying the perception of colour in a hierarchy based on race. The commencement of a love between Armand and Desiree illustrates their tainted love in the production of their child that resembles black features as the story develops.“When she stood one day against the pillar…that Armand Aubigny riding by and seeing her there, had fallen in love with her…as if struck by a pistol shot.

    The passion that awoke in him that day, when he saw her at the gate, swept along like an avalanche…” (Chopin 1) offers to question Armand’s sudden love for Desiree which can be associated with the basis of her white appearance in a community where race overpowers the individuality of a person. The term “passion” illustrates his state of being of the profound emotion he feels towards, hence it contradicts the act of truly falling in love. Furthermore, “ ‘Oh, Armand is the proudest father in the parish…chiefly because it is a boy…and he hasn’t punished one of them–not one of them–since baby is born’ ” (Chopin 2), highlights Margaret D. Bauer, a Rives Chair of Southern Literature in the Department of English and a Distinguished Professor of Harriot College of Arts and Science, assertion that Armand thinks that by treating his slaves harshly he is able to hide his relation to them from any individual–white or black due to his complex dark face (146), nonetheless bearing a white son allows him to believe he is from white blood. Armand is at peace and happy due to the outcome that his son is white in which validates his racial heritage is of white blood and his wife is as well.

    When the baby is born it marks Armand’s character by shaping him into a father, a father that is nicer, and a father that loves his child which makes known that his child is significant in his life.Coupled with, “softened Aubigny’s imperious…nature greatly. This…made… Desiree so happy, for she loved him desperately. When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God. But Armand’s dark, handsome face had not often been disfigured by frowns since the day he fell in love with her” (Chopin 2) deeply amplifies that beyond his dark face she knows she has fallen in love with the man, the man with which her son carries his name. The marriage amongst these two individuals is marked by happiness of the idea that their son is white in conjunction with a change in character nature relating that all in all their great state of mind and life is caused by the color of the baby. Similarly, Emily Toth, a professor of English and Women’s Studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, supports this idea by stating that “the wife’s love for her husband is like the mother’s love for her child–supposed to be unconditional. While Armand’s love depends on his belief that Desiree is white…her love for him is independent of his behavior ”(121) which reinforces that Desiree’s happiness is correlated with the love for her husband, and Armand’s love is dependent on Desiree’s race along with the treatment of the slaves.

    It is evident that Desiree love is true by enlarging that falling in love with Armand did not base on the color of his face but the act of him falling in love with her. In addition, Desiree cherishes and loves her baby when it is born and in her hands in which she displays a proud, happy mother to have a child that has a father, the man whom she married and fell in love with.Moreover, “ When the baby is three months old…an air of mystery among the blacks” and the “ awful change in her husband’s manner…when he spoke to her it was with averted eyes from which the old love-light seemed to have gone out”(Chopin 2-3) illustrates the drastic change of the marriage and love between Armand and Desiree, and the baby that to the eyes of the community was beginning to show “Negroid features” (Elfenbein 124). Armand begins to change as the black complexion of his son becomes more clearly recognized discloses that the color of his son was dependent of his love towards him and his wife.

    Particularly, “When the child darkens, Armand’s feelings for Desiree change at the same pistol-shot speed with which he ostensibly fell in love…The callous treatment of his wife upon their baby’s ‘metamorphosis’ suggests he never loved her” (Bauer 142). The speed in which Armand stops loving Desiree makes known that his love for her was conditional and is solely built upon the color of Desiree’s skin and blood. If love did actually exist between these two individuals the color of the baby would not have been an issue, however it was a major problem in Louisiana and in their marriage.Teresa Gibert, a researcher in English, American and Canadian literatures, establishes that “In a society that drew color lines and classified human beings according to a predetermined constructions of race being placed on one side or the other of the racial boundary was no light matter”(166-167) enlarges the concept of the race the child is classified from the parents, Armand and Desiree, that will enhance the attitude a Southern Louisiana will have against the child that was born from a dark male with a name that was “one of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana”(Chopin 1) and a white female that is “nameless” (Chopin 1). In a Southern Louisiana where hierarchy that primarily focuses on color has the ability to control to conclude a definite identity as to what the child is mainly associated with and that is colour. The resemblance between Desiree’s baby and La Blanche’s child broadens the extension of such love that is invested in the creation of Armand and Desiree’s baby disclosing that the colour their son is greatly associated with demonstrates the concept of race that is rested upon this family. The baby, half naked, lay asleep upon her own great mahogany bed…one of La Blanche’’s little quadroon boys –half naked too– stood fanning the child slowly with a fan of peacock feathers.

    Desiree’s eyes had been fixed absently and sadly upon the baby, while she was striving to penetrate the threatening mist that she felt closing about her. She looked from her child to the boy who stood beside him, and back again; over and over (Chopin 3). There is the presence of the hierarchy of race with relation to class which touches on the conclusion that “for any person of color, slave or free”, “the consequences of slavery, miscegenation, and racism extend to all” (Bauer 146, 148). As told from the community’s point of view it is “ to emphasize this society’s complicity”(Bauer 143), it is evident that the baby’s appearance is to be further questioned of which parent has “black blood” (Bauer 143) represents the notion that race is far more significant than the act of loving a child that carries the family name. It is that the love between Armand and Desiree that produces a child with black features will be a test by means of the labeling of a particular race in “ antebellum Louisiana” (Gibert 166). The certain evaluation of human behavior to exclude the strong feeling for an individual in the essence to take into consideration the values of the dominion of the superiority of the white race society underlines the climax of Armand and Desiree’s matrimonial destruction on the issue of the color of the baby.

    Ultimately, when Armand realizes that his son shows features that resemble the black race, he rejects his son and Desiree disclosing that his values are based on the racial society in antebellum Louisiana. Armand rejects Desiree, stops loving her and his son, and starts to come to terms of a racial hierarchy that grows within that are stronger than his love for his wife. Armand, Desiree, and the son are individuals that are affected by racial superiority that is primarily focused on their love in the creation of their son. Anna Shannon Elfenbein, a Professor in the English department at West Virginia University, makes a case on Desiree and Armand’s love, qualifying “…even when Desiree is desired, that desire is conditional. Armand’s hubris, the result of male privilege buttressed by… a sense of racial superiority, makes unconditional love for Desiree impossible” (124) unveils that a true mutual love was not the integral factor in their marriage but rather race which is amplified through Armand’s perspective of falling for Desiree foreshadows that the baby is a product of a tainted love, a tainted love that is introduced at the beginning of the Armand and Desiree’s relationship.

    The feeling of love meant happiness for Desiree which contradicts Armand’s of feeling love was of desire and racial appearance that validates that tainted love is present in the creation of their son in a community that basis their values and beliefs on a hierarchy based on race. Additionally, Armand and Desiree are examples of a concept that stress the idea of “portrays of admits of love” that do not defy “the rigid polarities of ‘black’ and ‘white’” (Elfenbein 123) which heightens the notion that such colors of race define that the act of loving in this particular society is through the complexion of the individual. The essence of using terms black and white displays the prejudice on the specific mark of color placed on a person with unjustifiable reasoning of qualifying their identity on the point of color. Armand and Desiree are affected by the definition of identity with relation to color revealing that their uncertain knowledge of their own backgrounds leads to the demise of their love that is exemplified by the black color that defines Desiree’s baby. Desiree’s baby symbolizes the tainted love of Armand and Desiree in a racial society that focuses on a hierarchy of color that in essence reinforces that such love was just of white complexion and not of personality which shows that the baby is born from a love that was not true since conflict arises when the baby possesses black features.

    In essence, Armand and Desiree’s son epitomizes the commencement of their love and the end of their marriage on the reasoning that their son is not white that adds to such conclusion that Desiree does not have white blood justifying her being nameless, therefore Armand choses to support racial superiority instead of love. The baby allows the representation of tainted love to become apparent in the relationship between Armand and Desiree that their love is tainted with racism, hierarchy founded on color, and the societal standards in antebellum Louisiana.

    Works Cited

    1. Bauer, Margaret D. ‘Armand Aubigny, Still Passing After All These Years: The Narrative Voice and Historical Context of ‘Désirée’s Baby’.’ Short Story Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 171, Gale, 2012.
    2. Literature Criticism Online, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/OLSYLZ600548479/LCO?u=txshracd2547&sid=LCO&xid=c64e92b7. Accessed 2 Apr. 2018.
    3. Originally published in Critical Essays on Kate Chopin, edited by Alice Hall Petry, Hall, 1996, pp. 161-183.
    4. Chopin, Kate. ‘Desiree’s Baby.’ Awakening & Selected Short Stories, 1/1/1899, pp. 97-100. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.southtexascollege.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=22448969&site=lrc-live&scope=site.
    5. Elfenbein, Anna Shannon. ‘Désirée’s Baby.’ Short Story Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 171, Gale, 2012. Literature Criticism Online, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/RWDFOY516983372/LCO?u=txshracd2547&sid=LCO&xid=86fecc5e. Accessed 2 Apr. 2018.
    6. Originally published in Women on the Color Line, UP of Virginia, 1989, pp. 126-130.
    7. Gibert, Teresa. ‘Textual, Contextual and Critical Surprises in ‘Désirée’s Baby’.’ Short Story Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 171, Gale, 2012. Literature Criticism Online, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/TBDKFC479099157/LCO?u=txshracd2547&sid=LCO&xid=9ba3e78c. Accessed 2 Apr. 2018.
    8. Originally published in Connotations, vol. 14, no. 1-3, pp. 38-67.Toth, Emily. ‘Kate Chopin and Literary Convention: ‘Désirée’s Baby’.’
    9. Short Story Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 171, Gale, 2012. Literature Criticism Online, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/WFFHRT183696877/LCO?u=txshracd2547&sid=LCO&xid=1a1370a5. Accessed 2 Apr. 2018. Originally published in Southern Studies, vol. 20, no. 2, 1981, pp. 201-208.

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