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Desiree's Baby: Character List & Analysis

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  • 0:04 Main Characters
  • 3:33 Racism and Misogyny
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

Do you know anyone with deeply hypocritical or destructive tendencies? In this lesson, we'll learn about the characters in 'Desiree's Baby' and analyze how they exhibit and demonstrate some of the main themes in Kate Chopin's short story.

Main Characters

Let's look at the main characters in Kate Chopin's story 'Désirée's Baby.' Afterward, we'll analyze how they exhibit the narrative's main themes.

Madame and Monsieur Valmondé

Madame Valmondé and her husband are unable to conceive a child. When Monsieur Valmondé finds a toddler abandoned at their estate, the couple feels blessed. They decide to adopt the girl and name her Désirée. Monsieur Valmondé is worried about her unknown origins, but allows her to marry Armand anyway when she grows up.

Madame Valmondé is startled when she realizes Désirée's baby has biracial ancestry. However, she loves her daughter and the baby, and she invites them to come live with her and her husband when Armand rejects them.

Désirée

Désirée is Monsieur and Madame Valmondé's adoptive daughter. No one knows who her family is, but we learn that she has straight brown hair, white skin, and gray eyes. She's described as 'beautiful and gentle, affectionate and sincere.' She loves her husband Armand and the infant son they have together.

When she realizes the baby is partly black, however, 'the blood turn(s) like ice in her veins, and a clammy moisture gather(s) upon her face.' She demands an explanation from Armand to no avail, then tries to reassure him of her own whiteness. When this fails and he tells her to leave, she takes their son and disappears into the bayou, committing suicide and infanticide. Like Armand, Désirée is a destructive and hypocritical character. She's unable to accept a fate as the mother of a biracial child separated from her husband, announcing: 'I shall die. I must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and live.' She also appears to love her son only until she discovers he has black ancestry.

Monsieur and Madame Aubigny

Monsieur Aubigny is Armand's father and enters the story as the head of 'one of the oldest and proudest (families) in Louisiana.' From this, we know that the family is long-established, wealthy, and highly respected in society; they live on an estate called L'Abri. Additionally, in a pre-Civil War Louisiana where keeping black slaves is the norm, readers are to assume that the family is white.

Monsieur Aubigny married in Paris, and Madame Aubigny died in Paris when his son turned eight. He's described as having been 'easy-going and indulgent,' particularly in regard to how he treated his slaves. At the end of the story, we learn that his wife was of partly black ancestry, and that Armand's parents kept this secret from their son. The letter written by Armand's mother reveals that she was relieved to be able to do this.

Armand Aubigny

Armand Aubigny, Monsieur and Madame Aubigny's son, is both more hot-blooded and hot-tempered than his father. He's pointedly described as having a 'dark, handsome face.' He falls in love with Désirée 'as if struck by a pistol shot,' but is also strict and stern toward his slaves. His disposition temporarily softens when his son is born, but he begins to behave monstrously when he suspects his son may have black ancestry. The narrator writes that 'the very spirit of Satan seemed suddenly to take hold of him.'

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