Are Humans Alone In The Universe?
The setting of Kate Chopin’s, “Désirée’s Baby” plays an important role in the affairs as well as the outcome of the reasoning behind each character’s ironically desolate fate. The author emphasizes that this story takes place in the South, specifically Louisiana. This literature constantly implies that African Americans are thought of as an inferior race and slavery is still apparent and accepted. The time and location have a chief role in the characters’ mentality and reactions as the plot unfolds. The ethical problems that arise during this story are wickedness, deception, and misunderstanding. Augbiny doesn’t perceive that color and origin of somebody’s being will neither be modified nor be discarded. These are characteristics that would only possess if the intention is to create a type of darkness as the reader passes through. Racist views are entirely constructed by humans, as Armund’s race is never a problem until he figures out that he, himself is part, African.
The most important device that sets the stage of this tragedy is the time period of which the story takes place. During this time, it is made clear that slaves are still exploited and racial discrimination is widely adopted creating substantial significance behind the harsh decisions that antagonist, Armund, makes towards his wife, Désirée, and his slaves as a reaction to the exposure of his child’s ethnicity. Roslyn Foy states, “With racial prejudice and psychological confusion as the sources of his cruelty, Armund has no choice but to turn from Désirée and the baby.” (Foy, 222-223) During this era, the men are the “Masters” of not only their slaves, but also women, and when men are placed into this status it gives them power to act in a manner that would not be acceptable today. According to Emily Toth, “‘Désirée’s Baby’ is not simply the story of one master and his wife; its power derives from what it says about slavery and character, about women and blacks in patriarchal society,” (Toth, 201-208). The setting of time and place that includes Slavery and racism has the most contribution to the outcome of this story because they play a pivotal role in the immediate actions of every character involved. People shudder at the thought of being black or perhaps being related to the cursed race. This means that slavery and racism are terribly evil in society and will be discarded or they’ll chafe the human soul.The use of words to describe the setting and feeling of this plantation gives the reader an image of darkness and a seldom atmosphere is inferred.
When Désirée’s adoptive mother, Madame Valmonde, comes to visit her new home, there are several characteristics about this estate that propose a woeful outcome. As Teresa Gilbert agrees, “The gloomy atmospheres of his house are far from being merely decorative: they convey a sense of impending doom, and thus perform an important function in the tragic development of this story.” (Gibert, 38-67) She explains the roof of the house and how it, “came down steep and black like a cowl, reaching out beyond the wide galleries that encircled the yellow stuccoed house.” (Chopin), a cowl is another term for the word hood used by monks, and is used in most circumstances to cover something which symbolizes the darkness within the walls and inside the fully black covered building.
Chopin illustrates the Oak trees in the plantation, as she notes there are “Big solemn oaks (that) grew close to it and their thick-leaved, far reaching branches shadowed it like a pall” (Chopin). Oak trees are customarily seen as symbols of courage, power, providing protection, standing strong through all things, and it is thought that its leaves have healing properties. Normally they would be seemingly designated to be in place to protect the house in a literal sense, but with the use of the similes, they are sorrowful and do not offer protection for Désirée and the slaves from her husband’s angry demeanor since, in accordance to Toth, “his attitude towards his wife parallels his actions toward his slaves,” (Toth, 201-208). These oak trees and the house itself are shade or blockage from any type of light and suggest sadness and death within the story and Gilbert expresses, “Thanks to these ominous similes, readers get a glimpse of a setting appropriate for the terrible events that will ensue.” (Gibert, 38-67)
There are a few minor, yet important setting developments the reader should notice throughout the text that set the tone and give small ironic hints and symbols in this piece of literature. These include the weather and the whiteness of Désirée in comparison to the darkness of her husband, Armund. Another instance in which setting is used to set the tone is the weather which mentioned in the very first sentence of the story, as Chopin states it as being, “pleasant, (as) Madame Valmonde drove over to L’Abri to see Désirée and the baby” (Chopin). These conditions give a sense of delight and happiness as the reader presses forward to anticipate a pleasant ending, but after Désirée marries Armund, the critical writer, Madonne M. Mine, reveals, “At this point, Chopin works a turn on the fairy tale, moving from romance to gothic horror” (Mine, 1). As the story progresses the weather in particular is not expressed, but is mentioned again in Désirée’s final appearance toward the end of the piece, “It was in October afternoon; the sun was just sinking” (Chopin). October is usually the month the weather turns cold and there is a noticeable difference in the air as it marks the beginning of fall. This month, along with the sunset are thought to symbolize nearing the end of something and give the reader a precursor of Désirée’s fatal demise. Another use of setting that is considered being ironic and a clue for the reader is Désirée’s whiteness compared to her husband’s darkness.
The first representation of symbol of whiteness is first mentioned when Armund’s passion for Désirée is described as being “swept along like an avalanche” (Chopin). Chopin may have been referencing Désirée’s ‘whiteness’ here through the link with snow, something pure. She states again as Désirée is lying “in her soft white muslins and laces” (Chopin) when Madame Valmondé came to visit her. In contrast, her husband is consistently described as dark, “but (his) dark, handsome face had not often been disfigured by frowns…” (Chopin). Again, when Désirée is walking to the bayou she is still wearing her white garment through a deserted fielding that, “tore her thin garment to threads” (Chopin). This could be used as a metaphor for her reputation and status being ripped apart by her mixed-race child and the stigma associated with Black blood, “the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery” (Chopin). Armund is directly compared to Désirée when he accuses her of not being white, she rebuttals, “look at my hand, whiter than yours,” (Chopin). Since she is the one always referenced with white, maybe it was not Désirée who had Black blood in her, but Armund who is perceived as a dark character both internally and externally. As Margaret Bauer reflects, “The community is blind to the same evidence—for example, Armund’s dark skin in comparison to Désirée’s light skin and the fact that his background is also somewhat mysterious in that no one has met his mother—that the reader fails to see until after reading the last lines of the story” (Bauer, 161-183).The descriptions in the flashbacks in the beginning of this piece make the atmosphere cheerful and optimistic, when Désirée is found “lying asleep in the shadow of the big stone pillar” (Chopin). She is loved, even though her adoptive parents do not know her true ethnical origin. Eighteen years later she sees her future husband at that same stone pillar and he immediately falls in love with her “as if struck by a pistol shot” (Chopin). Their home is considered a “sad looking place, which for many years had not known the gentle presence of a mistress” (Chopin).
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The setting of Kate Chopin’s, “Désirée’s Baby” plays an important role in the affairs as well as the outcome of the reasoning behind each character’s ironically desolate fate. The author […]