Désirée’s Baby

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Signet Classics edition of Désirée’s Baby published in 1976.
Désirée’s Baby Quotes

In time Madame Valmondé abandoned every speculation but the one that Désirée had been sent to her by a beneficent Providence to be the child of her affection, seeing that she was without child of the flesh.

Related Characters: Madame Valmondé , Désirée
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

When Monsieur and Madame Valmondé discover an abandoned baby at the gate of their estate, the wealthy couple decide to raise the child as their own. Despite the child's mysterious beginnings, Madame grows to love the girl as unconditionally as if she were her biological child. This unconditional acceptance of the child continues even through the challenges of the short story. This is notable, because Madame Valmondé does not exhibit the same prejudice as other white characters in the treatment of her daughter. When Désirée's racial heritage is called into question, Madame Valmondé continues to love her unconditionally. Love, for this character, trumps prejudice, even socially-ingrained prejudice. 

Madame Valmondé's love is rooted in her faith and belief in a God who decides one's fate. She sees Désirée in the positive light of a gift from "Providence." She also refers to Providence as "beneficent," meaning that God intends good things to come to Madame Valmondé. She sees Désirée's appearance in her life not as the result of chance, but of divine intervention. It is her fate to find a daughter rather than to have a biological daughter. Other characters, most notably Armand, understand Providence and fate differently in this short story, but Madame Valmondé's character presents the most optimistic view of both love and fate. She sees God as entirely good, and her love for her daughter is untainted by the existing racial prejudices of this location and time period. In contrast to other characters, Madame Valmondé shows the ideal versions of love and the "blindness" of love. 

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It was no wonder, when she stood one day against the stone pillar in whose shadow she had lain asleep, eighteen years before, that Armand Aubigny riding by and seeing her there, had fallen in love with her.

Related Characters: Désirée, Armand
Related Symbols: Stone pillar
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée grows into a beautiful young woman, and it is this beauty that attracts the attention of her wealthy neighbor, Armand Aubigny. Armand falls in love with Désirée at first sight, which this story presents as "no wonder" due to Désirée's great beauty. Armand sees Désirée's beauty as her defining characteristic. At this time, women were primarily valued for their beauty, rather than for their intelligence or character. This is one example of the sexist treatment Désirée and other women (for example, La Blanche) receive at Armand's hands.

Désirée's location at the moment when Armand first sees her is symbolic: this is the site where she was found as an abandoned baby. The parallel between these two events is clearly intentional, as the narrator explicitly reminds us in this passage that this is the very same place where Désirée was found by the Valmondés. This site is a place of transition for Désirée. She found her first home here with the Valmondés, and now she finds her second home here with Armand. In both situations, it's worth noting, Désirée is passive. She is quietly waiting, and other characters arrive and decide to claim her. Throughout the story, Désirée's passivity reinforces the powerlessness of women in this society. The stone pillar is also a symbol of the wealth of the Valmondés, and their solid position as members of the upper class, as the pillar stands at the gates of their estate. Désirée is marked as belonging to this upper class when she stands near the pillar.

The passion that awoke in him that day, when he saw her at the gate, swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire, or like anything that drives headlong over all obstacles.

Related Characters: Désirée, Armand
Related Symbols: Stone pillar, The Bonfire
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

Armand falls in love with Désirée when he sees her standing near the gates of the Valmondés' estate. Armand's character is captured in this passage that describes his instant passion for Désirée. Armand falls in love with her at first sight, and the basis for his love is Désirée's beauty, which appears against the backdrop of her family's wealth and the shadows of the mysterious stone pillar. This shows that Armand's love is strong, but also rather superficial. He is not interested in Désirée's personality or character. Throughout the story, he continues to see her as more object than person—she is a beautiful object that he wishes to possess. Thus when this beauty is tainted by questions about her race, it is easy for Armand to reject his superficial love. 

This passage shows that not only is Armand's love superficial, it is also dramatic. The metaphorical language compares Armand's passion for Désirée to "an avalanche" and "a prairie fire," both of which are destructive natural disasters, and both "drive headlong over all obstacles." These similes give the reader a sense of Armand's destructive personality. He is strong-willed and unforgiving. But they also demonstrate the power of passion and love, which is repeatedly linked to "blindness to the truth" throughout this short story. Armand does not consider Désirée's mysterious background when he falls in love with her. He is initially blind to the risk of marrying a girl of unknown origin, despite the value he places on his family's good name. Yet this "blindness" is not strong enough in Armand's love, and the "prairie fire" of his passion later becomes a literal bonfire when he discovers what he thinks is the truth about Désirée's racial heritage.

When she reached L’Abri she shuddered at the first sight of it, as she always did. It was a sad looking place….The roof came down steep and black like a cowl, reaching out beyond the wide galleries that encircled the yellow stuccoed house. Big, solemn oaks grew close to it, and their thick-leaved, far-reaching branches shadowed it like a pall.

Related Characters: Madame Valmondé
Related Symbols: L’Abri
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

Madame Valmondé travels to L'Abri, the estate of Armand, to visit her married daughter and the couple's new baby. This passage describes the physical appearance of L'Abri, as well as Madame Valmondé's negative reaction to it. The descriptive language characterizes L'Abri as a dark and forbidding place, reminiscent of the Southern Gothic genre. The roof forms the shape of cowl, a concealing hood, and the trees that surround it cast the house into perpetual shadow. For such a short story, significant descriptive time is spent characterizing L'Abri, which indicates the importance of the house and setting to the narrative of the story.

L'Abri is a place of wealth and extravagance for its white inhabitants, but this luxurious lifestyle has been built at the expense of the family's black slaves. The house also shows the relationship between classism and racism, because its wealth is possessed by one race of people at the expense of another race of people—at this time period, there were no wealthy African Americans. Blacks are subjected to ill-treatment, poverty, and slavery at the hands of the affluent (and even poor) whites.

Madame Valmondé shudders at the "sad-looking" L'Abri, but she is responding to more than the house's appearance. Its ominous appearance seems representative of the horrors that have happened there, where Armand is a strict master over his slaves. 

Young Aubigny’s rule was a strict one, too, and under it his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they had been during the old master’s easy-going and indulgent lifetime.

Related Characters: Armand
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

Armand Aubigny is a different type of master of L'Abri than his father was. This passage contrasts the two men. Where the elder was "easy-going" and "indulgent," the younger is "strict." This difference in temperament directly impacts the two men's treatment of their slaves, as this passage establishes. Under the older Aubigny's ownership, the slaves were "gay," happy and light-hearted. This implies that they are no longer happy because of Armand's "strict" and presumably cruel treatment. This is a difficult passage because it seems, at first glance, to praise the older Aubigny in comparison to the younger. The truth of both these men's lives, however, is that they were both slave owners. They treated their slaves differently, but they both participated in a culture and economic structure built on slavery. A kind slave owner might not be physically violent, but he is still someone denying basic humanity and self-ownership to human beings.

The ending of the story also reveals that the older Aubigny had a very different understanding of the relationship between blacks and whites than his son, as he married and supported a woman with black heritage, whereas Armand treats his wife cruelly when he suspects her heritage. But this does not change the truth of the elder's position in society as an Aubigny. He is an upper-class white man and a slaveholder, and the fact that he loved a light-skinned woman with black heritage does not erase the reality that he also owned black slaves. The mere fact that Armand does not know about his own heritage reveals the racism that pervades the Aubigny family, where both mother and father are ashamed to reveal their child's black heritage. 

“This is not the baby!” she exclaimed, in startled tones.

Related Characters: Madame Valmondé (speaker), Désirée, Baby
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:

Madame Valmondé hasn't seen Désirée's baby in a while, and upon seeing the child she immediately recognizes his black heritage. She does not explain her suspicions to her daughter, but her surprise at seeing the child is apparent in this passage, as she exclaims with "startled tones." Presumably, Madame Valmondé is shocked to see a child who is so clearly part-black born of two parents who appear fully-white. She cannot believe this is the child, and her disbelief manifests itself as a rejection of this as the biological child of her daughter. Madame Valmondé's reaction is open to the reader's interpretation. When she says "this is not the baby," does she speak from pure confusion that the child appears so unlike its parents? Or does she speak with more judgment, with disgust at the child's clearly black appearance? Madame Valmondé exists in a context that is explicitly racist. Slavery is a part of everyday experience. Yet, she obviously seems more compassionate than Armand.

Madame Valmondé's startled reaction shows how obvious the child's heritage is, and yet the truth has not been recognized nor acknowledge by Désirée. Désirée's overwhelming love for her child blinds her to the truth. She does not look at her child with a critical eye, because she sees her child as perfect. This blindness seems to indicate that Désirée would think blackness in her child an undesirable thing, and that she does not see this "negative" attribute because she is overwhelmed by love. 

“…he hasn’t punished one of them—not one of them—since baby is born. Even Négrillon, who pretended to have burnt his leg that he might rest from work—he only laughed, and said Négrillon was a great scamp. Oh, mamma, I’m so happy; it frightens me.”

Related Characters: Désirée (speaker), Madame Valmondé , Armand, Baby
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée speaks to her mother about the change that has come over Armand since the birth of their child. She measures this change in terms of the treatment of his slaves, and his notable kindness reveals that in the past he has been far from kind toward his slaves. Désirée says that Armand "hasn't punished one of them" and includes an example of a man, Négrillon, who once might have been punished for evading work, but who was now only laughed at. The fact that one of Armand's slaves would feign injury to take a break from work--and that this behavior would once have been punished--is a telling revelation. It is clear that Armand (like most slaveowners) sees his slaves as less than human because of their blackness, and he takes his ill temper out on them. If he is more indulgent after the birth of his child, this seems to be a change based on his own whims and moods, not any fundamental change of heart or worldview on his part. The slaves are not treated fairly, but subjected to Armand's caprice. 

Désirée does not criticize Armand. She sees the change in him and praises him, and she describes her current state as one of almost frightening happiness. She sees Armand's change as permanent, and as the result of his love for her and their child. Her love for Armand blinds her to truth about his character, which is that he is cruel and erratic. She does not imagine that he could turn this cruelty on her, and instead remains hopelessly idealistic about his nature.

Marriage, and later the birth of his son had softened Armand Aubigny’s imperious and exacting nature greatly. This was what made the gentle Désirée so happy, for she loved him desperately. When he frowned she trembled, but loved him. When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God.

Related Characters: Désirée, Armand, Baby
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée's comments to her mother about how Armand has changed in his treatment of his slaves are strongly biased in Armand's favor, but the narrator also states the change that has come over Armand since the birth of his son. Armand's nature is "imperious" and "exacting." His need to control others is clear from his introduction into the story, in which he falls obsessively for Désirée, and overcomes all obstacles to "have" her. Désirée, on the other hand, is "gentle" and in love. Her soft personality and love cause her character and her emotions to be shaped by Armand's moods. Armand fluctuates from anger to happiness, and Désirée fluctuates in response. 

Désirée's subservience to Armand show the inherent sexism of this story's setting. At this time period, a woman was expected to shape her life around her husband's needs and desires, and Armand and Désirée exhibit this to an extreme degree. Désirée's love for Armand blinds her to anything other than his needs and moods. She does not have an external source of happiness or fortitude other than her husband. This dependance then prepares the reader for the extreme impact that Armand's rejection will have on Désirée. Not only is Armand more powerful than Désirée as a man in this sexist society, but he is more powerful than her as a wealthy man. Armand is the source of Désirée's happiness, but also the source of her livelihood. All her possessions were purchased by him. At this point Désirée is still seen as white, and thus has far more privileges and rights than non-whites in her society, but at this point her life is still almost entirely controlled by Armand. 

Then a strange, an awful change in her husband’s manner, which she dared not ask him to explain. When he spoke to her, it was with averted eyes, from which the old love-light seemed to have gone out. He absented himself from home; and when there, avoided her presence and that of her child, without excuse. And the very spirit of Satan seemed suddenly to take hold of him in his dealings with the slaves. Désirée was miserable enough to die.

Related Characters: Désirée, Armand, Baby
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée is closely attuned to Armand's whims and moods, and so she immediately observes when her husband begins to change in his behavior toward her. She sees him avert his eyes when she speaks to him, and she feels that he is intentionally avoiding her. In contrast to his earlier kindness toward his slaves, he begins to treat them with extreme hostility and cruelty. This new phase of unkindness makes Désirée "miserable enough to die." Armand's true nature is revealed, in contrast to Désirée's loving hopes for his character. When he was happy and pleased with his wife and child, he was kind. But when he is unhappy, he is vicious. Désirée does not know the reason for his unhappiness, but she deduces that it has to do with her and her child. Armand's ability to punish Désirée and his slaves shows the power he has over the people around him. 

Armand's power is threefold: he is white, male, and wealthy. When he is unhappy, his mistreatment of others shows the intersection of these three sources of power. He has power over his wife as a man in a sexist society. He has power over his slaves as a white in a racist society. And he has power over both his wife and his slaves as a wealthy man in a class-based society, in which both wives and slaves do not have a source of income. Because Armand controls his wife and his slaves' livelihoods, he is free to treat them however he would like. They don't have alternative options for survival other than dependence on him. 

One of La Blanche’s little quadroon boys—half naked too— stood fanning the child slowly with a fan of peacock feathers. Désirée’s eyes had been fixed absently and sadly upon the baby, while she was striving to penetrate the threatening mist that she felt closing about her. She looked from her child to the boy who stood beside him, and back again; over and over. “Ah!” It was a cry that she could not help; which she was not conscious of having uttered. The blood turned like ice in her veins, and a clammy moisture gathered upon her face.

Related Characters: Désirée, Baby, La Blanche
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée finally realizes the truth about her child's appearance when she observes him near one of La Blanche's little boys. The similarities and differences between these two children is apparent in this moment. Both are "half naked," which emphasizes the similarities between them in the moment when Désirée realizes how much they look alike. Despite their racial similarities, however, their different social classes are clear. The baby lies in expensive wraps on the bed, while the older boy works for the baby's comfort by fanning him. One lives a life of luxury, emphasized by the extravagance of a peacock feather fan, and the other lives a life of labor. 

A further connection between the boys can also be inferred by the story's context: it is possible that the two are half-brothers. A sexual relationship is implied between Armand and one of his slaves, La Blanche—and this boy is the child of La Blanche. Could he also be the biological child of Armand? This would highlight the two children's physical similarities in the moment that Désirée realizes how much they look alike.

Désirée reaction to this realization is one of shock and horror, as "the blood turned like ice in her veins, and a clammy moisture gathered upon her face." That her child appears black and must have some black heritage is a painful realization. Despite the prejudice Désirée has faced as a woman, she is not any more tolerant or open-minded than others when it comes to race. She is deeply ingrained with a racist worldview, which shows in her disgust with her child and unhappiness with herself when she believes Armand's assumption that she is part-black. 

"Armand,” she panted once more, clutching his arm, “look at our child. What does it mean? tell me.”
He coldly but gently loosened her fingers from about his arm and thrust the hand away from him. “Tell me what it means!” she cried despairingly.
“It means,” he answered lightly, “that the child is not white; it means that you are not white.”

Related Characters: Désirée (speaker), Armand (speaker), Baby
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée speaks to Armand after she sees that her child looks surprisingly like the little black boy working in her home. She confronts Armand with distress and confusion. Does Désirée truly not understand what her child's appearance means? Or is she simply unwilling to speak the truth aloud? Or is she so guided by her husband's words and authority that she does not accept the truth until she hears it from him? Regardless of her motives, Désirée's unhappiness is clear as she clutches Armand's arm and cries "despairingly." Armand's words and actions are equally negative, as he "coldly" removes her hand from his arm. The actions of both parents express horror at their child's appearance. This shows the inherent racism of characters who are deeply unhappy to have a black child. 

Armand's choice of words reveals his sexist (as well as racist) thinking. He states first that "the child is not white," and follows this with the immediate assumption that Désirée is not white. His words are an accusation, as he places the blame for the child's appearance entirely on his wife. He sees his wife as less important than himself and his wealthy, seemingly well-established (meaning "pure" white) family. His own family seems to him to be beyond reproach or suspicion, so instead he accuses Désirée for her past and her heritage without any proof. The irony of this, of course, is that it is actually Armand's heritage that is black. His false assumption shows the faults of his judgment and character that are shaped by racism and sexism—but also the inherent absurdity and stupidity of the very idea of a rigid racial hierarchy, since no one is "pure" anything, and no race is "inferior" to any other.

“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,” seizing his wrist. “Look at my hand; whiter than yours, Armand,” she laughed hysterically.
“As white as La Blanche’s,” he returned cruelly; and went away leaving her alone with their child.

Related Characters: Désirée (speaker), Armand (speaker), Baby, La Blanche
Page Number: 192-193
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée attempts to argue against Armand's assumption that she is part-black by pointing out her own features. The light color of her hair, her gray eyes, and her fair skin are cited as evidence of her white heritage. These pieces of evidence are presented by Désirée as talismans to protect her from Armand's judgment and rage. The ironic moment of this passage is the comparison Désirée makes between her skin shade and Armand's skin shade. This moment subtly foreshadows the truth revealed at the end of the story: that the black heritage visibly expressed in the baby is from Armand's family, not Désirée's family. Armand's misjudgment and cruel treatment of Désirée after he assumes she is partially black are answered in a fatalistic way by the end of the story. Armand, who has profited from racism the most out of all the characters in the story, leading to an elitist understanding of his identity, must confront the fact that he is part of the very group of people he looks down upon. 

Armand's parting statement compares Désirée's skin to La Blanche's skin. La Blanche, although she receives very little time and attention in this story, is presumably full-black and a slave belonging to Armand. Armand's statement implies that he sees no difference between a woman who is part-black and one who is full-black. Any blackness at all characterizes a woman as someone who is unworthy of being his acknowledged and loved wife—and is instead only his property.

“My mother, they tell me I am not white. Armand has told me I am not white. For God’s sake tell them it is not true. You must know it is not true. I shall die. I must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and live.”

Related Characters: Désirée (speaker), Madame Valmondé , Armand
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée pleads with her mother to protect her against the accusation that she is not white. This is treated as an accusation, of course, for it is clear that being "not white" is an extremely negative thing in this society. Désirée's plea of innocence seems like a plea from someone accused of a horrible crime, as she repeats variations of "tell them it is not true." Although the reader has only witnessed Armand's accusation, Désirée also refers to a generic "they" and "them." This pronoun seems to encompass all of white society. Désirée speaks collectively of a group that is now excluding her. Armand's exclusion and cruelty may be the most immediate, but Désirée's words are a reminder that any doors of white society would be closed to her now. Her social class will no longer accept her in a society in which blacks are perceived to be far less important than whites, no matter their gender or class (although at this point in history, all black people in America are of the same class). 

Désirée's unhappiness is so extreme as to lead to her statements that she "must die." This is dramatic foreshadowing, as Désirée later walks into the bayou with her baby, never to return. At this point, her unhappiness might seem like overstatement, but the fact that she commits suicide because of her potential racial heritage confirms her statements in this passage. Her unhappiness is the direct cause of her death. This end result of Armand's accusation shows Désirée's complete powerlessness, particularly now that she is assumed to be black. As a woman and wife, her life revolves around Armand, and the only power or leverage she ever had with him was her beauty and her perceived whiteness.

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. Moreover he no longer loved her, because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name.

Related Characters: Désirée, Armand
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

Armand, in contrast to Madame Valmondé, has a negative understanding of God and believes Him capable of intentional and unjust harm. He sees the truth about his child as a cruel blow, and he has a sense of having been wronged by the powers that be. This shows Armand's twisted thinking. He sees a black child not as his responsibility, and not even as "punishment" for his wrongs, but as an uncalled-for injustice against himself. He is never critical of himself and immediately places blame on others, be this God, his wife, or blackness itself. Furthermore, he feels it necessary to strike back at God for his treatment, and does so by mistreating his wife. This twisted logic might occur because Désirée's goodness is easy to attack, or because he knows he has the power to make Désirée unhappy. Armand's true nature, if ever in doubt, is now clear. 

In addition, this passage explains that Armand no longer loves Désirée because "of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name." Armand's love for Désirée is crushed by her having offended his family name. This shows where his priorities lie. Furthermore, this passage, and perhaps Armand himself, acknowledges that her offense was "unconscious." Désirée had no way of knowing her heritage, yet Armand treats her as if she had intentionally brought shame to his family. In this society, being associated with blackness brings shame upon whites, who see their superiority to blacks reinforced by their high social class and "good" family name. 

She disappeared among the reeds and willows that grew thick along the banks of the deep, sluggish bayou; and she did not come back again.

Related Characters: Désirée, Baby
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

Désirée chooses death rather than living a life with the shame of being part-black. Shockingly, she also chooses this for her child, who she carries into the bayou with her. Désirée's death is not explicitly stated--perhaps she could have run away from Armand's home and survived--but the ominous language describing her disappearance indicates her death in the bayou. The bayou into which she disappears is "deep" and "sluggish," and this is linked in the same sentence to "she did not come back again." This link implies a cause and effect relationship: the murky bayou prevents her from ever returning. Désirée's choice shows the pressures of a society that is deeply racist. She knows how painful it will be for her to live in this society and she knows how painful it will be for her child, which is why she chooses his death as well. Furthermore, she has internalized the racist ideas of her society—they aren't just external forces—and so even she feels that she is suddenly inferior and inhuman because she is part-black.

Désirée's death also shows her dependence on Armand. Madame Valmondé tries to convince her daughter to return home with her baby. Armand has fully rejected Désirée, but Madame Valmondé's love for her daughter transcends the pressures of a racist society. But Désirée does not choose this "blind" love. It seems that Armand's rejection casts her into a deep depression. Perhaps she also knows that her mother will not be able to protect her from the judgments of society, even if she could provide her with a place to live separately from her husband on whom she relied for happiness and livelihood. 

In the center of the smoothly swept back yard was a great bonfire. Armand Aubigny sat in the wide hallway that commanded a view of the spectacle; and it was he who dealt out to a half dozen negroes the material which kept this fire ablaze. A graceful cradle of willow, with all its dainty furbishings, was laid upon the pyre, which had already been fed with the richness of a priceless layette. Then there were silk gowns, and velvet and satin ones added to these; laces, too, and embroideries; bonnets and gloves; for the corbeille had been of rare quality.

Related Characters: Armand
Related Symbols: Fine clothes, The Bonfire
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

Once Désirée and the baby have vanished from Armand's life, he removes all physical traces of them by burning their belongings in a bonfire in his yard. This is one of the most symbolic passages in the story, particularly because the bonfire that consumes everything echoes the initial description of Armand's passion for Désirée, which was like "a prairie fire." Armand continues to live his life dramatically—just as he claimed Désirée by showering her with gifts and marks of his wealth, so does he reject her when she no longer has value, and he destroys the gifts he once gave her.

Only Armand, of all the characters in the story, has the luxury of destroying items like silk and velvet gowns or gloves and bonnets. He was obviously able to afford these luxuries, and the fact that he can dispose of them casually shows his privileged lifestyle. These items are also all distinctly feminine and associated with women's beauty. Armand, who saw Désirée as a beautiful object, gave her feminine gifts to enhance her allure. He confines her to the ornamental role of a woman in this sexist society and his chosen gifts highlight this. 

Ironically, Armand is directing the work in the yard, but not laboring himself. The items are piled into the bonfire by his slaves. In this scene, Armand exhibits the intersectional relationship of sexism, racism, and classism in this society. He is in control of his slaves because of their race and his wife because of her gender, and he is able to destroy luxury items because of his wealth. 

“But, above all,” she wrote, “night and day, I thank the good God 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.”

Related Characters: Madame Aubigny (speaker), Armand, Monsieur Aubigny
Page Number: 194
Explanation and Analysis:

The short story ends with this plot twist, in which Armand discovers a letter from his mother to his father that reveals the truth of his black heritage. His mother was part-black, a fact which she hid from Armand. This ending is dramatically ironic, because it reveals the misjudgment Armand made in accusing Désirée's heritage rather than suspecting his own. As a wealthy white man, he never considers that he could be anything less than perfect, according to his own standards and society's standards (which assumes that whiteness equals purity). This reveal of the truth seems to be Armand's ironic fate, and a type of justice is served when Armand, who mistreated others for the color of their skin, must now confront his own black heritage. 

The language of this passage reinforces the pervasiveness of slavery in this society and the incredible cruelty of this practice. Madame Aubigny is grateful that her son can live free from the shame of knowing his race. She refers to blacks as "the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery." She knows that the treatment of her race is a type of curse, and she sees Armand's "escape" from this as blessing from "the good God." Like Madame Valmondé, she loves her child and wants to protect him in an environment that is cruel toward a whole race of people—but she makes no effort to help those who are actual slaves, or who have no option of "passing" as white.

Ironically, the similarity between Armand and the slaves he mistreated is not so great as he once supposed. This shows the incredible superficiality and arbitrariness of racism and classism, where one man wields ultimate power over others... but ultimately those "others" are people with whom he shares the same heritage. 

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