Imagery and Irony in Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby”
Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby” tells more than a sorrowful story of how a once happy marriage ended after the birth of a young boy. Through the use of imagery and irony, Chopin was able to discuss the predicament of women during this period. The first imagery used by Chopin in the story was when Armand wanted to marry Desiree, a young and beautiful woman whose past remained unclear. She was regarded to be “nameless” by her adoptive father (Chopin).
However, Armand stated that her status as her being nameless is not of any concern to him because “[…] he could give her […] the oldest and proudest [names] in Louisiana (Chopin). By using the term nameless to refer to Desiree, Chopin addresses the status of women during her period. Women during her period were considered to be part of their husband’s property, just like the African-American slaves who loses their name. Even until today, when a woman marries, unless it is requested, she is expected to use her husband’s last name.
Armand later in the story referred to Desiree as being “white as La Blanche” (Chopin). His referral to her as La Blanche may be interpreted as an irony. La Blanche was used to refer to the African-American slaves of the Louisiana plantations since as mentioned earlier, they are considered to be nameless. However, Desiree did not physically resembled African-American slaves. In fact, Desiree pointed out to Armand to “[…] Look at my hair, it is brown […] and my eyes are gray […] and my skin is fair […] whiter than yours […]” (Chopin).
This contradicts to him stating to Desiree’s adoptive father that he did not care that she was nameless. In effect, he was implying that his wife, Desiree, was nameless and no different from his slaves in the plantation. Kate Chopin lived during a time when the status of an individual in society was based on the color of the skin of the individual. If the individual is white, that individual is considered to be one who is eligible to the basic needs and privileges an American citizen needs.
However, if the individual’s skin is not white, he or she would be considered inferior and therefore unable to be considered as entitled to the privileges of American citizens. Because of the inferiority of the status of women during the time of Kate Chopin and the vague ancestry of Desiree in the story, Desiree was assumed to be a mixed-race woman whose parents are both Caucasian and African-American. This became evident to Armand on the birth of their baby who started to resemble that of their slaves in the plantation.
This further fuels the irony regarding Armand’s claims earlier in the story that he did not care that the ancestry and from where Desiree originally came from. With his comment that it did not matter to Armand that his wife-to-be was nameless seemed to be empty since if this was the case, then his relationship and how he perceived his wife after the birth of the baby. However, it is clear towards in the end of the story that her ancestry was important to Armand.
Because Desiree was fair-skinned, and even fairer than him, it never occurred to him that there was a possibility that she may be a woman of a mixed-race origin. The possibility only occurred when their baby was born. Armand believed that because Desiree had an ambiguous past, he immediately concluded that the reason for their child to become similar to their African-American slaves was Desiree’s ancestry. He “no longer loved her, because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name” (Chopin).
He can now be considered as an outcast and a disgrace to the society where he lived because he married a woman from a mixed-race. But perhaps the irony presented in the story that had the most impact was at the end. After sending his wife and his baby away, he begins to burn all her belongings as well as the child in order to erase any existence of their relationship. Among those he was about to burn was a bundle of letters. He then noticed that one of the letters was not written by Desiree.
Upon reading the letter, he discovered that it was a letter to his father by his mother where she mentioned thanking his father for his love and that their son, Armand, “will never know that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery” (Chopin). In the story, Armand had been described as a very arrogant individual who is so proud of being born into a Caucasian family that he treats his slaves inhumanely. He also maltreated his wife after the birth of their son which made Desiree extremely miserable that she sought the advice of her adoptive mother.
The story ends with this revelation, which allows the reader to speculate what could have happened after Armand discovered that he was a son of a Caucasian father and an African-American mother. However, it also gives the reader the most concrete example of the inferiority of women during this period. Because Desiree was known to have a vague past, she was automatically accused. It never occurred to Armand that being relatively darker than Desiree may provide an explanation with regards to why their child was not as fair as Armand expected.
No one could say for sure on whether Armand’s accusation with regards to the ancestry of Desiree was confirmed or contradicted. Chopin never provided this in the story. The story had provided, instead, a peek into the discrimination experienced not just by African-Americans, but also by women. Women are the weaker gender and as such easy to be accused of various claims that men would never take into consideration on whether they were in fact the guilty party.
Chopin, Kate. Desiree’s Baby. 1893. 07 March 2008 <http://www. ivcc. edu/ flm2010/Desirees_Baby. htm>.Sample Essay of Paperial.com