Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the major themes in “Desiree’s Baby” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with this text and writing an excellent paper.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Treatment of Race
Chopin’s story, “Desiree’s Baby" is a story that is largely about race. When Desiree gives birth to her child, the reader begins to become aware that there is a mystery about the child’s parentage. There are other characters, notably LaBlanche’s quadroon son, which also serve to raise concerns about racial identity. Chopin builds a mystery in order to provoke the characters’ and the reader’s anxieties about race. Write an essay in which you explain how she does this and determine whether it is effective. Determine what you believe to be Chopin’s point in writing a story such as this one.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Desiree’s Delayed Vindication
Although by the time her vindication occurs it is too late, the prejudiced Armand learns that it was his mixed parentage and not that of his wife which produced their mixed-race child whom he detested and rejected. Write an essay in which you explain why Armand was so repulsed by his child and his wife. Consider, for example, the idea that prejudice can be internalized as a defense mechanism. Explain why it is important that Desiree is vindicated, even though it is too late for her.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Desiree’s Death
In a letter to her mother, Desiree writes that she cannot live and that for that reason, she must die. Her statement was obviously charged with emotion, but one may contest whether death was the only option available to Desiree. Write an essay in which you explain why you believe Desiree had to die. Alternately, if you believe that Desiree had other options which she simply did not identify or consider, then make that argument. If you choose the latter, be sure to explain how the story would have been different had Desiree lived.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Suspense of “Desiree’s Baby"
Kate Chopin works hard to create a sense of suspense around the revelation of the mystery about the origins of the baby’s strange color. The reader is kept guessing for most of the story, and even when he or she believes that the answer is clear, a twist occurs just as the story ends. Write an essay in which you defend or contest Chopin’s particular use of suspense in this story. Analyze whether this technique was effective in maintaining the reader’s interest and developing higher stakes for the outcome.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Defending Desiree’s Love
Desiree loves Armand, who is hardly worthy of her love. Armand Aubigny initially treats the slaves strictly though after the baby was born he became more relaxed. Desiree feels very happy about this. Later, though, he reverts again to abusive behavior. Given this inconsistency and volatility, explain why Desiree might love Armand, and explain why Armand is so inconsistent in his emotions and treatment of others. Again, be sure to consider concepts of internalized oppression as a possible explanation for Armand’s behavior.
This list of important quotations from “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Desiree’s Baby” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“His negroes had forgotten how to be gay" (1608).
“That was the way all the Aubignys fell in love, as if struck by a pistol shot. The wonder was that he had not loved her before…." (1608)
“The passion that awoke in him that day, when he saw her at the gate, swept along like an avalanche, or like a prairie fire, or like anything that drives headlong over all obstacles." (1608)
“Yes, the child has grown, has changed….What does Armand say?” (1608)
“Oh, 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. I know he says that to please me." (1608)
“This was what made the gentle Desiree so happy, for she loved him desperately. When he frowned she trembled, but loved him. When he smiled, she asked no greater blessing of God." (1608)
“It means…that the child is not white; it means that you are not white." (1609)
“A quick conception of all that his accusation meant for her nerved her with unwonted courage to deny it." (1609)
“[Armand is] the very spirit of Satan." (1609)
“I must die. I cannot be so unhappy, and live." (1610)
Reference: Chopin, Kate. “Desiree’s Baby." In The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. 1607-1611. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.
Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby” narrates the story of Desiree, whose life has been turned upside-down by the same man, who gave it so much brightness. Desiree marries the love of her life, Armand Aubigny, and soon, she gives birth to a big, healthy boy. At first, everything is perfect. Armand has been transformed by fatherhood from a violent and strict slaveholder to a more lenient master. As the baby grows, Armand and others realize that the former is not white, because Desiree is not white too. Desiree does not survive the loss of Armand’s love for her, and she commits suicide, bringing her baby with her. The ending lends an ironic twist to the story. A letter from Armand’s mother reveals that it is Armand, who is actually partially African. The two ideas that come up with “Desiree’s Baby” are that racism destroys humane judgment and as a consequence, it metaphorically murders both the judged and judge.
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Armand represents the common racist master, who is proud of his race and name. When he learns that Desiree is not fully white: “Moreover, he no longer loved her, because of the unconscious injury she had brought upon his home and his name” (Chopin 5). Armand believes that any connection to the black race smears putrid shame on his family’s name. He denigrates anything that is black by nature. He changes his disposition to his wife and own child, after knowing that they have black blood. But since he cannot hurt them like he could with his slaves, he can only hurt his slaves more to release his rage: “And the very spirit of Satan seemed suddenly to take hold of him in his dealings with the slaves” (Chopin 3). These resulting actions reveal that Armand has lost the humaneness of his judgment.
Racism has completely clouded the reasoning of the judged and in the process, it leads to their death. Desiree could not accept that Armand does not love her and their child anymore, just because they have African blood. She writes to her mother to ask about this accusation that she is black, and she remarks that she will die from unhappiness, if it is all true. Her mother does not know Desiree’s real parents, so she sends back a cryptic message. Desiree tries to move Armand’s heart one last time, but to no avail, because he allows them to leave, which in a sense means that he abandons them from now on. Desiree does not think straight anymore, because she loves Armand more than herself and their son. Desiree disregards that she and her son are human beings and they deserve to move on, and she decides to kill herself and her baby.
Racism has also deranged the judge’s logic, which also figuratively murders. Armand does not even consider the possibility that Desiree is still white, with perhaps other kinds of race relations. The story highlights themes of whiteness and darkness. Desiree is often the one surrounded by lightness and whiteness. Because of racism, Armand further does not even realize that he is the dark one in the story, with his “dark” face and skin. The ending infuses gloomy situational irony, when Armand discovers that he is the “real” black one after all. If only Armand took the time to think about the facts, and even, for a while, set aside his racism for true love, he could have saved his family’s lives. He did not do any of these things, and he ends up as the one who has lost it all, even his own claim to the white race; he is alive, but his loss is so great that he might as well have died.
This short story underlines the evils of racism. It is so evil that it destroys the logic of both slaves and masters. It is utterly immoral that it rips away the humaneness of people’s thoughts. Racism pushes Armand to make hasty generalizations, which metaphorically murders his family. When he compels his wife to commit suicide and infanticide, he has also killed himself in the process. He has no family and he tarnishes his cherished name, which is already shamed in his perspective, because he is black himself. But the thought that will kill him the most is that he brought it all upon himself.
Chopin, Kate. Desiree's Baby. Web. 24 July 2010 http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/DesiBaby.shtml