Désirée’s Baby

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Fine clothes Symbol Analysis

Fine clothes Symbol Icon
Armand orders fine clothes and ladies’ accessories for Désirée from Paris when he wishes to marry her. These fine objects symbolize Armand’s wealth and influence, as well as the material transaction that is taking place through the marriage. Armand conceives of Désirée as one of his many beautiful possessions. He showers her with gifts, but quickly falls out of love with her when his faith in her is tested. At the end of the short story, Armand directs the burning of the fine clothes and gifts he has bestowed on Désirée. For Armand, these objects are symbolic of Désirée, and he uses the bonfire to remove his memories of her along with her possessions. The destruction of the fine clothes demonstrates Armand’s position of wealth that allows for such an extravagance.

Fine clothes Quotes in Désirée’s Baby

The Désirée’s Baby quotes below all refer to the symbol of Fine clothes. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
). 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 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. 

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Fine clothes Symbol Timeline in Désirée’s Baby

The timeline below shows where the symbol Fine clothes appears in Désirée’s Baby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Désirée’s Baby
Intersection of Classism, Sexism, and Racism  Theme Icon
Love and Blindness Theme Icon
...for he could give her his name—one of the most respectable in Louisiana. He ordered fine clothes and gifts for her from Paris and the two were married. (full context)
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Intersection of Classism, Sexism, and Racism  Theme Icon
Irony, Misjudgments, and Fate Theme Icon
...and feed the bonfire. Armand directs a baby’s cradle be added to the fire, and fine clothes ; gowns of silk, velvet, and satin; laces; embroideries; bonnets and gloves follow this. These... (full context)