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Symbolism, Setting and Sexism in ‘Desiree’s Baby’
As “Desiree’s Baby” starts with a flashback, readers are provided a short however detailed introduction of Desiree’s background, which only begins when she is found as a toddler by Monsieur Valmonde “at the gateway” of his estate. This “gateway” with its “big stone pillar” plays a substantial function in constructing up the story. Not only is it where Desiree had been identified, but it is also the quite spot exactly where Armand Aubigny falls in enjoy with her eighteen years later. This “gateway” consequently symbolizes the starting of important changes in Desiree’s life it can be inferred as an opening to yet another stage in her life, such as her 1st entering into the Valmonde household and later getting into a married life with Armand Aubigny.
The Aubigny’s mansion, the L’Abri, is also introduced with vivid descriptions which outlines its daunting look. Although the word L’Abri is French for “the shelter”, the mansion is described to resemble all images connected to death, so it is probable that the mansion is intended to represent “the shelter” of the afterlife. The extremely sight of it causes Madame Valmonde to “shudder” and in her defence, the L’Abri is described to be “a sad searching place”, a lot like the notion of a funeral or graveyard, as they are the typical “sad” places that would result in one to tremble. Moreover, the striking comparison of the steep roof to that of a black “cowl” gives the impression of Death’s hood, and the “thick-leaved, far-reaching branches” of nearby “big, solemn oaks” are depicted to “shadow” the property “like a pall”, which is a covering placed on best of coffins. All of these ominous descriptions hint on both the disturbing components that exist within the mansion as properly as the inevitable death which awaits the protagonist.
By way of this residence that is symbolic of death and desolation, Kate Chopin reveals the owner’s “imperious and exacting nature” – which is 1 of the elements that the L’Abri’s disturbing look symbolizes – along with the affectionate and sincere Desiree’s passive disposition. “When he [Armand] frowned, she [Desiree] trembled, but loved him. When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God”: these sentences establish the partnership amongst the two, highlighting Desiree’s distinctly inferior manner as she treats Armand like a getting worthy of taking as a lot as he pleases while she only offers without having asking for something in return. This shows that Desiree behaves according to the era’s allocated part of a woman who is completely submissive to her husband, the dominant white man, whom is entitled to behaving as he wishes with no concerning with the feelings of his personal wife. This sexist insinuation is emphasized when Armand’s demeanour changes from that of a loving husband, to a hostile and antagonistic 1. “He absented himself from home… with no excuse”, and in spite of this shift in personality that causes Desiree to be “miserable enough to die” “she dared not ask him to explain”. It portrays the position of the 19th century wife who, regardless of her troubles, had no proper to query her husband’s actions or confront him about it.
Furthermore, when Desiree does ultimately confronts Armand concerning the issue which has stirred the complete L’Abri household as effectively as their neighbours, Armand does not hesitate to location the blame of their son’s mixed blood on his wife. He uses patriarchy as a weapon to shield his honour and as a means of concluding the difficulty with out putting himself in any light of suspicion. Even as Desiree attempts to argue and defend herself against this baseless accusation, the “courage” she musters in this nerve-wrecking moment is eventually “unwonted”, as the strength of male-dominance is as well excellent to fend off.
In the end, Desiree leaves with her quadroon kid but only right after asking Armand if she ought to go. So, from an general viewpoint, it can be inferred that Desiree’s behaviour throughout the story reflects the stereotypical female who does not make her own choices and rather waits for other people to choose for her. She begins with waiting to be found from the shadows of the “big stone pillar” and taken in by the Valmondes as a toddler, then marries the man who sweeps her off her feet eighteen years later, and finally enables her husband to decide on his personal, with no notion of a fair trial or a discussion, on the fate of their marriage.
Till the end of the story, Kate Chopin continues to use descriptions of the setting as a symbolism of death. The day and hour Desiree leaves with her kid is an “October afternoon”, whereby October, which is correlated to autumn, represents the end – and in this case, possibly the finish of the lives of Desiree and her baby. “The sun” which was “just sinking” depicts a similar image and appeal of death. In addition, the “deserted field” which Desiree crosses with her kid to flee Aubigny’s plantation symbolizes her escape from the racist society and into the desertedness of isolation. Just as how society at the time had been isolating slaves and all those who have been deemed inferior to the white dominant race, Desiree now chooses to isolate herself and her infant from this unjust globe – perhaps forever.
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