Before and After: How Racial Heritage Can Dramatically Alter Ones Life

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In Kate Chopin’s short story “Desiree’s Baby” she attempts to show the racial ideologies that were prevalent in her day. She does this by not only implementing a shocking twist into her story but by using very subtle clues that can be found upon close study. By comparing the circumstances in her character’s lives before and after they become “aware” of their own or other’s racial heritage, Chopin points out that blacks were seen as an unhappy, miserable people and that only among whites can true happiness be found. Chopin creates these differences by using imagery and descriptions to stereotype both the blacks and whites in her story. While examining the circumstances surrounding Desiree’s life after she “becomes” black we can see Chopin’s genius at work. First, we will look at how the influence of the Almighty God is viewed in her life. When she is first found “in the shadow of the big stone pillar”(270) abandoned as a white baby, it is seen as an act of God. Desiree was delivered to Madame Valmonde to be a source of happiness and light. Chopin spins this feeling of providence and happiness on its’ head when she explains Armand’s feelings after “discovering” the blackness that his wife possessed later in the story. Armand thinks to himself that the “Almighty God had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him”(273) and he feels that he is doing his God justice by “stab[ing] thus into his wife’s soul”(273) when he tells her to leave. This comparison of how God’s influence was seen in Desiree’s life as a white woman and a black woman shows how ridiculous Chopin thought the racial ideologies of her day were. As a white child she was a blessing: as a black woman, a curse. The notion that God would view one of his children differently because of their skin color certainly was prevalent in her day and these instances from the story, along with the knowledge we have of

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