Desiree’s Baby: Prejudiced Criticism of the One-Drop Rule

1245 WordsJul 17, 20185 Pages
“Desiree’s Baby” provides insight into the application of the hypodescent rule in plantation-era Louisiana, depicting individuals of mixed race who are marked and assigned to the subordinate social group. In her short story, “Desiree’s Baby,” Kate Chopin addresses the practice as it was applied to the “one-drop rule,” the notion that an individual with white complexion may be deemed black by society given the presence of any African ancestry. Desiree, the story’s protagonist, is eloquently placed at the intersection of the two races, victimized in order to highlight the flaws and inadequacies of the rule. Desiree’s ultimate removal from white society and possible death may indicate a text working to criticize racial prejudice; however,…show more content…
Without racial comparisons, the story would only be a tragedy, reading as a criticism of hasty racial categorization because of the suffering it brings, but with them it is a depiction of a flawed system that has rewarded a black man. Chopin first contrasts Armand’s tendency to take on “the very spirit of Satan” in dealing with slaves with the more relaxed relationship they had with his father (441). Looking upon L’Abri, Madame Valmonde is troubled to realize that under Young Aubigny’s rule “his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they had been during the old master’s easy-going and indulgent lifetime” (440). Additionally, Madame Valmonde’s sadness upon seeing the estate may indicate that Monsieur Valmonde, a white man like Armand’s father, lacks young Aubigny’s cruelty. Armand’s lack of compassion is seen again upon realizing his son’s black heritage. Feeling that “Almighty God had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him” by giving him a quadroon child, Armand asks Desiree and the child to leave L’Abri (442). In contrast, Monsieur Valmonde’s treatment of Desiree as “the idol of Valmonde” depicts his compassion toward a child who may potentially be black (440). Chopin’s racist undertones are realized as the dark-skinned Armand, characterized by volatility and callousness, is meant to be looked upon much less favorably than the story’s compassionate white slave owners. Within the system of hypodescent, Desiree is a black woman because of her

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