Désirée’s Baby

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Stone pillar Symbol Analysis

Stone pillar Symbol Icon
Monsieur Valmondé discovers baby Désirée in the shadow of a stone pillar at the gate of his plantation. The baby’s position in the shadows of this pillar symbolizes her mysterious origins. Her past is shadowed because little is known about who she is or where she comes from. Désirée is standing near this same stone pillar eighteen years later when Armand sees her and falls in love at first sight. The stone pillar is a marker of Désirée unexplained past, but also a marker of the estate of the Valmondés, which provides Désirée with care and love in her youth. Armand’s encounter with Désirée at the same spot marks the beginning of a new type of love. The stone pillar, therefore, is the setting of the two most important encounters in Désirée’s life and symbolizes transitions and acts of love, but also the mysterious past that comes to color those loves.

Stone pillar Quotes in Désirée’s Baby

The Désirée’s Baby quotes below all refer to the symbol of Stone pillar. 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

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.

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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.

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Stone pillar Symbol Timeline in Désirée’s Baby

The timeline below shows where the symbol Stone pillar appears in Désirée’s Baby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Désirée’s Baby
Slavery and Racism Theme Icon
Intersection of Classism, Sexism, and Racism  Theme Icon
Love and Blindness Theme Icon
...baby herself. Her husband, Monsieur Valmondé, found the baby asleep in the shadow of the stone pillar at the gate of their plantation. (full context)
Intersection of Classism, Sexism, and Racism  Theme Icon
Irony, Misjudgments, and Fate Theme Icon
...neighbors speculated about her origins: did she crawl or walk to the base of the stone pillar herself? Did the party of Texans who had crossed the river near the planation that... (full context)
Intersection of Classism, Sexism, and Racism  Theme Icon
Love and Blindness Theme Icon
...She became beautiful, kind, and loving. Eighteen years later, she was standing near the same stone pillar where she was found when Armand Aubigny rode by and fell in love with her... (full context)