The following passageÂdescribing
Armand's attitude regarding the lack of information about Désirée's
family historyÂforeshadows his assumption that Désirée's
ancestry included a black African.
grew practical and wanted things well considered: that is, the girl's obscure
origin. Armand looked into her eyes and did not care. He was reminded that
she was nameless. What did it matter about a name when he could give her
one of the oldest and proudest in Louisiana?
After he discovered that
his child was a mixed ancestry, it was easy for him to conclude that his
wife was the one with Désirée was the one with mixed blood
in her veins.
The foreboding appearance
of the exterior of Armand's home reflects his inner world and foreshadows
the malevolence that possesses him after Désirée questions
him about their child. Here is the description of L'Abri, presented when
Madame Valmondé visits the plantation house. "It was a sad looking
place. . . . The roof came down steep and black like a cowl, reaching out
beyond the wide galleries that encircled the yellow stuccoed house. Big,
solemn oaks grew close to it, and their thick-leaved, far-reaching branches
shadowed it like a pall."
"Something in the Air"
a change for the worse in the atmosphere at L'Abri when her child is three
months old, although she cannot fully explain what she feels. Her presentiment,
along with a change in the demeanor of her husband, foreshadows the unhappy
that result in the destruction of her marriage. Here is the passage describing
her feelings and the change in Armand's behavior.
When the baby was
about three months old, Désirée awoke one day to the conviction
that there was something in the air menacing her peace. It was at first
too subtle to grasp. It had only been a disquieting suggestion; an air
of mystery among the blacks; unexpected visits from far-off neighbors who
could hardly account for their coming. Then a strange, an awful change
in her husband's manner, which she dared not ask him to explain. When he
spoke to her, it was with averted eyes, from which the old love-light seemed
to have gone out. He absented himself from home; and when there, avoided
her presence and that of her child, without excuse. And the very spirit
of Satan seemed suddenly to take hold of him in his dealings with the slaves.
Désirée was miserable enough to die.Armand's Complexion
The following passage foreshadows
the ending, when Armand reads the letter about his own background. The
key sentence is underlined.
A quick conception
of all that this accusation meant for her nerved her with unwonted courage
to deny it. "It is a lie; it is not true, I am white! Look at my hair,
it is brown; and my eyes are gray, Armand, you know they are gray. And
my skin is fair," seizing his wrist. "Look at my hand; whiter than yours,
Armand," she laughed hysterically. Désirée's
Reaction to Her Supposed Racial Origin
Armand tells Désirée that she is not white, her reaction
suggests that she feels disgraced. She tells him, "It is a lie; it is not
true, I am white! Look at my hair, it is brown; and my eyes are gray, Armand,
you know they are gray. And my skin is fair. Look at my hand; whiter than
yours, Armand." Then, when composing a letter to Madame Valmondé,
she writes, "My mother, they tell me I am not white. Armand has told me
I am not white. For God's sake tell them it is not true. You must know
it is not true. I shall die. I must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and live."
it is likely that what distresses Désirée is not her and
her baby's racial heritage per se. Rather, it is a fear that Armand will
reject them because he views them as racially impure. Her fear, of course,
is well founded.
passage in the story is particularly revealing in regard to the depth of
Armand's malevolence. It occurs after he tells Désirée that
he wants her to leave L'Abri. The narrator says, "He thought Almighty God
had dealt cruelly and unjustly with him; and felt, somehow, that he was
paying Him back in kind when he stabbed thus into his wife's soul."
bayou: Marsh near
a river or lake.
cochon de lait:
for wedding gifts or trousseau. Literally, the word means basket.
for a newborn baby.
negligee or bathrobe.
descended from one black grandparent and three white grandparents.