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The 19th century was a difficult time for many women and blacks because of the domination of white men over them. The social and economic hardships they faced in day to day life was a constant reminder of this domination. The social ideology in the story “Desiree’s Baby” was powerful and dangerous and held no escape for any character.
A woman with small children who lost her husband would face extreme hardships without the support of close family members. One who happened to be down on their luck would not find much sympathy among their peers even with children. Kate Chopin was one of these individuals who was down on her luck with six children. But fortunately had the support and comfort of her mother for a short period before her mother passed away. A friend advised this mother of six children that writing was a way to solve her problems concerning money and help deal with her grief. Maternal love and all the grief from losing loved ones were to be an attribute to the writing proficiency of this literary artist.
This period in Louisiana was not tolerant for mixed ancestry and one found to be non-white would be ostracized from the white community. There were some whites in Louisiana who was not racist but they would still have to follow a strict code of segregation and social guidelines or risk social or bodily death. Kate Chopin was born fourteen years before slavery was abolished so must have had strong feeling on the subject. She no doubt saw mixed ancestry in the black communities and realized the cause of it. This story crosses the line into the covert world of mixed ancestry and the problems it produced. The racism in the story is not discussed openly but is prudently mixed in with Armand’s atrocious character and his evil soul. Armand’s evil was deep as he forsakes his loving wife, infant son, and God.
The story some proclaim contributed to Chopin’s early success was “Desiree’s Baby” in this story she mixed many feminist emotions from maternal love, to a wife’s love and devotion to her estranged husband.
During this period, some found it tolerable to leave a baby on the doorsteps of a family to provide a chance at a better life. This was an important point in the story when the Monsieur found the baby Desiree near the front gate, it would mean that Desiree would probably never be aware of her biological parents ancestry. The chance a baby with both parents would be dropped off is not logical but was probably a single mother. A single mother knew there was little help to be found and the child would be hard pressed for a descent upbringing socially and economically speaking.
Desiree grew into a beautiful and gentle-hearted young woman and soon found a wealthy suitor asking for her hand. This young suitor had known of Desiree’s past but was in love and did not care of this seemingly innocent unknown factor of her past. This suitor, Armand Aubigny was racist and wretched but the young bride was in love and looked past his flawed character. The concept of young Armand falling instantly in love after seeing Desiree standing by the gate is a bit suspicious and sounds more like infatuation. The evil in Armand did not come from his parents and the black employees were cheerful when he was growing up so it is an open question concerning his acquired hatred. The blacks were cheerful while his father was alive but was not during Armand’s strict management of the L’Abri. Armand had changed to a kinder man after his marriage and the birth of his son and it may have been the only time in his life he was truly happy. The death of his mother while living in France when he was eight years old may have had a precarious effect on his character. The way Madame Valmonde described the L’Abri as “a sad looking place, which for many years had not known the gentle presence of a mistress”(1), may have been a hint at Armands evil nature being tied to having no maternal influence during most of his boyhood.
Madame Valmonde noticed the
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Quadroon, Desiree, Chance, Kate Chopin, Dsires Baby
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