As hard as it may be to talk about it, race has found a humble abode in literature. Desiree’s baby revolves around race and how it affects its main characters. A woman by the name of Desiree gives birth to a baby boy who is fathered by cruel slave master Armand Aubigny. Desiree makes a startling discovery when she finds out that her baby is of African heritage and this infuriates her husband who kicks them out causing Desiree to end her and her child’s life. Kate Chopin’s clever use of foreshadowing, historical allegory, and irony portray the effects of racism and self-hatred on society.
Desiree gave birth to her baby early in the story, but does not introduce him to her mother until weeks later. Madame Valmonde, Desiree’s adopted mother, is frantically skeptical that the baby is not truly Desiree’s as evidenced by this line, “This is not the baby!” she exclaimed in startled tones (Chopin).” Madame Valmonde’s hesitance foreshadows a rude awakening for Desiree. She is apprehensive about the baby’s identity as she searches his appearance. Her reaction inadvertently predicts the outcome of the story because her questioning the baby’s maternity means that Desiree could not possibly be the black parent.
Madame Valmonde would know more than anyone what Desiree’s heritage is. When she asked, “What does Armand say? (Chopin)” Madame Valmonde predicts that Armand would react poorly. If in any event he kept the child, he would have been made a slave. According to Francis Frederic, “Slavery is bad enough for the black, but it is worse…for the mulatto or the quadroon to be subjected to the utmost degradation and hardship, and to know that it is their own fathers who are treating them as brutes (Frederic).” History has proved that more often than not the children of master and slave miscegenation were recognized as slaves.
Chopin does an exceptional job of incorporating a great deal of history into such a short story with allegorical references to miscegenation and discrimination against the black race. During the Antebellum period, it was against the rules of society for a white person to fraternize with black people. This widely recognized yet often ignored rule impacted the black and white communities severely and defined a century’s old fear of the black race. Slave and master relations did happen, and According to Bowdoin “Slave women were forced to comply with sexual advances by their masters on a very regular basis. Consequences of resistance often came in the form of physical beatings (Bowdoin).” Madame Valmonde’s reaction is surprisingly lax considering she is the mistress of a plantation owner. For her to be presented to us as a white woman, it is thought provoking that Madame Valmonde presents an open mind to her grandchild opposite to how volatile Armand reacts later on. According to Bowdoin, “The mistress beat the child and locked her up in a smokehouse…For two weeks the girl was constantly whipped (Bowdoin).” Often times, white mistresses would punish the slave women for being in a relationship with their husbands.
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