Desirees Baby


Word Count: 963

SIGNIFICANCES OF A LETTER “Désirée’s Baby” is a
story of love, prejudice and rejection, a story with noble
beginnings that slowly turns to reveal an uglier side of human
relations. Armand, a wealthy landowner of the plantation
L’Abri in the ante-bellum south of Louisiana, is confronted
by a family secret that has been hidden from him, even into
adulthood. The secret is scandalous for its day, and its
consequences run deep into the fabric of society. No one
told Armand of this secret. He discovers it by chance at the
end of the story, when he finds the remnants of an old letter
written by his mother to his father, the significance of which,
and its revelations, makes us focus on the many tragic and
ironic decisions made by him during this story. In the old
south, bloodlines are very important to the status of a family
and their social placement, so the “purity” of the family must
be kept. This “purity” does not accommodate marriages of
mixed race. Knowing this, Armand marries an old friend
who he had known since he was eight when he moved to
Louisiana from France with his father after his mother had
died. She was a girl of no distinction, who had no history or
reputation of family name like that of Armand, but despite
this he fell in love “as if struck by a pistol shot”.(317).
Others had warned Armand against marrying her, but he did
not care for he was so swept away by her beauty. “He was
reminded that she was nameless. What did it matter about a
name when he could give her one of the oldest and proudest
in Louisiana.” (316). Tragedy comes early in the marriage
with the birth of their first child. Although no one seemed to
notice at first, by the time the child was three months old,
neighbors and Armand hims! elf noticed a change in the
child. “When the baby was about three months old, Désirée
awoke one day to the conviction that there was something in
the air menacing her peace.“(317). It turns out the baby is of
mixed blood and because of this, he shuns his wife and the
child he was so proud of only days before. “He absented
himself from home and when there, avoided her presence
and that of her child, without excuse.”(317). Armand was
“the proudest father in the parish…it is a boy to bear his
name.”(317). Additionally, he accuses Désirée of not being
white (a crime against his family’s “purity”) which she
adamantly denies. “It is a lie it is not true, I am white! Look
at my hair, it is brown and my eyes are gray, Armand you
know they are gray. And my skin is fair,” “Look at my hand
whiter than yours, Armand,”(318). She writes to her
adopted mother and tells her of what is happening. Her
mother tells her to return home with the child where they will
both be loved, bu! t Désirée is so shocked and disheartened
she sets off towards a local bayou with the child never to be
seen again. Armand has made the decision to lose his family
in order to save his name and it’s too late to bring Désirée
back. The irony is that the letter read by Armand from his
mother reveals to him that it is he who is of mixed blood and
not Désirée. Placing blame on outside forces can also be a
tragic and misguided reaction to events that people
encounter. Armand makes this mistake when he can see no
other cause for his anguish and blames God for what he sees
as a cruel injustice placed upon him. “He thought Almighty
God had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him and felt,
somehow that he was paying him back in kind when he
stabbed thus into his wife’s soul (319). Ironically, in the
letter Armand finds from his mother, she is praising God for
having “arranged” their lives so as to be married in a racist
world and to have a beautiful child such as Armand. “But
above all, night and day, I thank the good lord for having so
arranged our lives that our dear Armand will never know
that his mother, who adores him, belongs to the race that is
cursed with the brand of slavery”(319). Paradoxically, it is
also this arrangement that is the root of his present day
problems. Had he known of his “heritage” before hand,
chances are! he would have approached life differently, but
we have to assume this was hidden from him to protect him
from the