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“Desiree’s Baby” is a short story written by Kate Chopin, an American author who was famous for writing about the controversial topics of her time. The story was first published in 1893 in Vogue Magazine. It tells the story of a young woman named Desiree, who is abandoned by her husband after the birth of their child. The story explores themes such as race, gender, and identity, and has become a classic of American literature. In this essay, we will examine the themes and motifs in “Desiree’s Baby” and analyze their significance in the context of the story.
Race is a central theme in “Desiree’s Baby.” The story takes place in Louisiana, a state with a complex racial history, and explores the attitudes of the time towards race and interracial relationships. The story follows the relationship between Desiree and her husband Armand, who is white. Desiree, on the other hand, is of mixed race, although she does not know her exact ancestry. Armand’s father had owned slaves, and his family was known for its aristocratic lineage. When Desiree gives birth to their child, it becomes apparent that the baby has African ancestry. Armand, who had been proud of his wife and child, becomes increasingly distant and cold towards them, eventually banishing them from the plantation.
The story suggests that Armand’s reaction to the baby’s race is not due to his own beliefs, but rather due to societal expectations. Armand’s family is deeply rooted in the plantation system, which relies on the exploitation of African Americans. Armand’s reaction to the baby’s race is indicative of the pervasive racism of the time, and the ways in which society perpetuated the notion of racial purity.
Gender is another central theme in “Desiree’s Baby.” The story explores the limitations that women faced in the late 19th century, and the ways in which their lives were controlled by men. Desiree is portrayed as a submissive and obedient wife, who is completely devoted to her husband. She is also presented as a victim of circumstance, with little agency or control over her life. When she is abandoned by her husband, she has nowhere to go and no means of supporting herself or her child.
The story also explores the ways in which men use their power to dominate and control women. Armand is portrayed as a cold and distant husband, who is only interested in his wife as long as she conforms to his expectations. When she fails to meet those expectations, he abandons her without a second thought. The story suggests that women were often at the mercy of men, and that their lives were shaped by the expectations of society.
Irony is a prominent motif in “Desiree’s Baby.” The story is full of unexpected twists and turns, which often serve to subvert the reader’s expectations. For example, the story begins with a description of Desiree as a beautiful and charming young woman, who is loved and adored by everyone in her community. However, as the story progresses, we learn that she is actually of mixed race, and that her true identity is unknown.
Another example of irony in the story is the way in which Armand’s character is developed. At the beginning of the story, he is portrayed as a kind and loving husband, who is deeply devoted to his wife and child. However, as the story progresses, we learn that he is actually a cold and distant man, who is only interested in his own reputation and social standing.
Irony is an effective literary device in “Desiree’s Baby” because it allows the author to subvert the reader’s expectations andkeep them engaged in the story. It also serves to highlight the hypocrisy of the characters, and the ways in which they hide their true selves behind a façade of respectability.
Symbolism is another important motif in “Desiree’s Baby.” The story is filled with symbolic references, which help to reinforce the themes and motifs of the story. For example, the color white is a symbol of purity and innocence, while the color black is associated with darkness and evil.
The baby’s clothing is also symbolic in the story. When Desiree first sees her baby, she is wearing a yellow gown, which symbolizes the hope and promise of a new life. However, as the story progresses, the baby’s clothing becomes darker and more somber, symbolizing the tragic fate that awaits him.
The plantation itself is also symbolic in the story. It represents the Old South, with its rigid social hierarchy and emphasis on tradition and lineage. The plantation is a place of great beauty and wealth, but it is also a place of great cruelty and injustice.
“Desiree’s Baby” is a short story by Kate Chopin, first published in 1893. The story is set in Louisiana and explores themes of race, gender, and identity. A formalistic analysis of the story would examine its elements of form, such as plot, characterization, setting, and theme.
The story follows Desiree, a young woman who is abandoned as a baby and raised by a wealthy family. She falls in love with Armand Aubigny, a wealthy plantation owner, and they marry. After the birth of their son, their relationship deteriorates when Armand discovers that the baby has dark skin, suggesting that Desiree may have African American ancestry. Armand accuses Desiree of being mixed-race and rejects her and their child. Desiree leaves with the child and is never heard from again. Later, Armand discovers a letter from his mother revealing that it is he who has African American ancestry.
The characters in the story are developed through their actions and interactions with others. Desiree is portrayed as kind and innocent, while Armand is initially charming but later revealed to be cruel and racist. Madame Valmonde, Desiree’s adoptive mother, is a sympathetic and caring figure. The baby, who is not given a name, is a symbol of innocence and the tragic consequences of racism.
The story is set in Louisiana in the 19th century, a time and place where race and class were highly stratified. The plantation where Armand and Desiree live is a symbol of the racial hierarchy, with African American slaves working in the fields and white landowners living in luxury.
The central theme of the story is the destructive power of racism and the arbitrary nature of identity. Armand’s rejection of Desiree and their child is based solely on the baby’s skin color, not on any real evidence of racial ancestry. The story also explores the theme of gender, with Desiree’s fate determined by the men in her life, including her husband and adoptive father.
“Desiree’s Baby” is a powerful and thought-provoking story, which explores themes such as race, gender, and identity. Through the use of motifs such as irony and symbolism, the story highlights the complex social and cultural issues of its time. The story remains relevant today, as we continue to grapple with issues of racism and sexism in our society. By examining the themes and motifs of “Desiree’s Baby,” we can gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which literature can help us to explore and confront these important issues.