Type of Work
Point of View
Plot Summary
Désirée's Reaction
Armand's Irreverence
Figures of Speech
Questions, Essay Topics
Complete Free Text
Author Information

Racism and Gender Bias

Like many other American men of the mid-nineteenth century South, Armand Aubigny bases the worth of a person primarily on his or her race and gender. Women are subordinate to men, he believes, and persons with a black in their family tree are little more than subhuman. As master of the L'Abri plantation, he is a strict taskmaster who treats the slaves harshly—so much so, the narrator says, that the “negroes had forgotten how to be gay.” As a husband, Armand clearly rules the home. “When he frowned, [Désirée] trembled,” the narrator observes. “When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God.”  Although his manner softens after the child is born, his demeanor remains in question. As Désirée observes, “Armand is the proudest father in the parish, I believe, chiefly because it is a boy, to bear his name; though he says not,—that he would have loved a girl as well. But I know it isn't true.” In other words, Armand judges the worth of the child according to its gender (in addition to its race).  A male meant that the proud Aubigny name and aristocratic heritage would endure, perhaps for many generations. However, when Armand discovers that the child has Negro blood, he becomes sullen and cruel, and he makes it known that his wife and child are no longer welcome at L'Abri. He even tries to erase their memory by burning all their clothing and household items. 

Judging by Appearances

Armand loved Désirée's outer beauty, not her inner beauty. She was a trophy. When the trophy became tarnished in his eyes, he removed it from its shelf and discarded it. He also rejected his child, for its skin exhibited a taint of impurity. Finally, like other Old South plantation owners, he viewed the blackness of his slaves as a defect that colored even their souls. However, conversation between Désirée and Madame Valmondé indicates that he apparently found time for La Blanche, the slave woman whose name (French for white) suggests that she was of mixed heritage, with light skin that made her a tolerable sexual object for Armand. Désirée, speaking of the loudness of her baby's crying, says, “Armand heard him the other day as far away as La Blanche's cabin.”

Real Love Is Colorblind

The narrator says Armand "no longer loved [Désirée] because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name." Rejecting her because he believes she is of mixed heritage indicates that he never truly loved her in the first place. Real love is colorblind. On the other hand, after Désirée informs her mother of developments at L'Abri, Madame Valmondé tells her in a return letter, ""My own Desiree: Come home to Valmondé; back to your mother who loves you. Come with your child."


.......The climax occurs when Désirée realizes that her baby is of mixed racial heritage. This moment precipitates the tragic events that follow.

Foreshadowing and More on Next Page
Continue Reading This Guide On The Next Page