Published in the last decade of the 19th century when slavery had already been abolished, Kate Chopin's short story is still generously soaked with dark issues of racism, prejudice, fate and deeply-feared miscegenation. Having lived for some time in pre-war Louisiana, Chopin was firsthand familiar with the pride and the lifestyle of rich Creole families. The main idea of the story, being that obscurantist prejudices ruin people lives, leads to other important ideas such as the fickleness of love and the power of destiny in peoples lives.
Racism, the most obvious theme of the short story, is manifested through Armand Aubignys rejection of his wife and son as soon as he has suspicions that the child may be of mixed origin. Racial prejudice is one thing Armands love cannot overcome. Armand shows unconventional courage and independence when he decides to marry an adopted girl, Desiree, whose real parents are not known. However, when Armand sees that his sons skin is like the skin of the little one-quarter African boy, he cannot bear the thought that his family name is stained by being married to the women who belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery (Chopin, 4). Belonging to the black race was considered a great misfortune: as soon as Desiree grasps that her sons is a child of blood-mixing, she feels so scared that the blood turned like ice in her veins, and a clammy moisture gathered upon her face (Chopin, 3).
The second theme of the story is the inconstancy of love. Armand is an impulsive young man who falls in love with grown up Desiree at first sight although he didnt use to like her as a child. His love is so powerful that it swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire, or like anything that drives headlong over all obstacles (Chopin, 1). The obstacles are quite serious as Aubignys are a respectable family of rich slave-owners in Louisiana while the girls origin is unknown. Armand, however, does not care that Desiree is nameless because he could give her one of the oldest and proudest [names] in Louisiana (Chopin, 1). Armands love withstands the trial of class differences but fails to accept the assumed racial ones. Armands love changes to coldness and rejection as fast as it grows out of nothing. Just as he falls in love with Desiree simply by seeing her against the stone pillar, so he sinks into apartness and aversion by hearing from far-off neighbors, who could hardly account for their coming and seeing with his own eyes that his son has a black origin. That probably was also one of the ways all the Aubignys functioned.
One more conspicuous theme of the short story is the destiny. Young Aubigny unlike his father genuinely believed that miscegenation can lead to something horrible, and in his case it does. Ironically, Armand appears to be a child of interracial parentage himself. Subconsciously he might have sensed it long before and that can be the true reason of his cruel attitude to the negro slaves who had forgotten how to be gay under his strict rule (Chopin,1). Fearing to be somehow engaged in mixing his presumably pure aristocratic blood with that of a slave, Armand can do nothing to prevent it. Being born from a black mother, he was raised by his father as a white child would have been because his fathers love for his wife truly overcame all the obstacles. However, Armand is unable to put up with his own and the distant neighbors attitude to his beloved baby being black in appearance. After Desiree leaves with her baby and disappears in the willows along the banks of deep bayou, Armand decides to purify his house from the belongings of the shameful presence: he burns all the Desirees and the babys things in a symbolical bonfire. This demonstrates how strong his disgust to the black people was even though he might have suspected such blood in himself, being considerably darker than most white people. It is Armands inability to accept the blackness in himself that drives him to be cruel both to his slaves and his family. Rejecting Desiree and the dark baby Armand denies his own mixed ancestry.
To sum up, the most distinct ideas of Kate Chopins short story Desirees Baby are racial prejudices, the inconstancy of passionate love and the overwhelming power of karmic destiny in peoples lives. Chopin vividly demonstrates how irrelevant belonging to a certain race is in the realm of true love. The prejudices of the society and the attendant segregation are the things that make people miserable and even ruin their lives. Armands love appears to be nothing but a desire to possess something that afterwards proves to be of no use and even a burden that has to be disposed of. Rejecting the slaves blood of his wife and son, he, in fact, cannot accept his own mixed origin and fails to deal with this karmic situation successfully.
Chopin, Kate. "Desiree's Baby". N.p., 2016. Web. 24 June 2016.
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