The story opens with Madame Valmonde visiting Desiree and her baby. On her way to L’Abri, she reminisces about Desiree’s childhood. Desiree was a foundling discovered by Monsieur Valmonde. He found her "lying in the shadow of the big stone pillar," as he was galloping through the gateway to Valmonde. The general opinion was that she was left behind by a "party of Texans," but Madame Valmonde believed Desiree was sent to her by God as she was not able to have her own children.
Eighteen years later, Armand Aubigny all of a sudden falls in love with Desiree when he sees her standing against the stone pillar, even though they knew each other since they were small children, ever since Armand and his father came from Paris, after his mother died. Monsieur Valmonde proposes that before their relationship becomes more serious, Desiree’s origin should be examined. However, Armand is so in love that he does not care about Desiree’s ancestors and decides it does not matter that she does not have a family name of her own, if he can give her a perfectly good one, and so they get married.
Madame Valmonde has a surprise awaiting her. She has not seen the baby for a month and when she arrives to L’Abri she is shocked to see the baby's appearance. Desiree remarks about how much he has grown. However, it is apparent that she does not see anything wrong with her son. She is very happy. Ever since the baby was born, her husband Armand, who was very strict and harsh, has softened a great deal.
When the baby is three months old, the situation in the house changes. Desiree senses there is something wrong. On top of that, Armand becomes cold and avoids both Desiree and the baby. One afternoon Desiree is sitting in her room and starts observing her child and a little quadroon boy who was fanning it. The similarity between them frightens her and she sends the boy away.
When Armand arrives back home, Desiree asks him about the baby. He responds that indeed the baby is not white, which means that she is not white either. Desiree points out all her physical features that strongly suggest that she is white, but her angry husband tells her she is as white as their mixed-race slaves.
Desperate, Desiree writes to her mother, Madame Valmonde, asking for help. Madame Valmonde tells her to come back home because she still loves her. Afterwards, Desiree asks her husband about his opinion and he sends her away. As a result of that, Desiree takes her baby and leaves the house. However, she does not take the road leading to the Valmonde, but instead she disappears in the bayou.
Several weeks after, Armand sets up a bonfire to get rid of Desiree’s belongings. Among the stuff he decides to throw away, Armand finds several letters. Most of them are "little scribblings" Desiree sent him in the days of their engagement, but he also finds one that is addressed from his mother to his father. In the letter, his mother thanks God for her husband’s love, but she also reveals that she is grateful that her son will never know that his mother "belongs to the race that is cursed by slavery."
There used to be a time where white people thought having African American blood in your family was wrong. It was thought of as a shame to your family or a disgrace to the name. Kate Chopin tells a story about a wife and husband who have a new child. Desiree, a white orphan that was adopted by the Valmonde family, is enthralled about the arrival of her baby boy and her husband Armand, a strict slave owner is also excited to see his first born son. However, the family begins to realize that something is mysteriously wrong with the newborn. They begin to notice that he is acquiring the traits of an African American and soon the couple start to narrow down the possibilities of the situation. In the story “Desiree’s Baby”, Kate Chopin uses symbolism and foreshadowing to portray that there is something eccentric about the baby and creates a mysterious plot that keeps the audience looking out for these clues.
With the use of many symbols in her story, Chopin gives the audience insight into the depths of her work. Examples of this symbolism include the stone pillar, La Blanche’s cabin, and the bonfire. The stone pillar that Desiree was found lying upon by Armand when he had first “fallen in love with her”(1) was used to show her desolate background. Armand uses this symbol as a sense of safety because he knows he will be able to use Desiree’s unknown decent to blame her for a future failure or to cover up his own mistakes. At the end of the piece, we find out that the baby is mixed and Armand blames Desiree. Neither of them knows who really has African American in their blood but he automatically assumes that it is her because no one knows who her real parents are being that she is adopted.
”And the way he cries,” went on Desiree,” is deafening. Armand heard him the other day as far away as La Blanche’s cabin”(2), this is a strange line in the story and makes the reader question why Armand was in La Blanche’s cabin and what he was actually doing while he was there. This might suppose that Armand is having relations with his slaves. If this is true then it is possible that the quadroon boys are his children because he is “white’ and the mother is black. Oddly enough, the author does not make Desiree recognize Armand’s words and she never says anything to her husband about it which makes it difficult to recognize.
There are many foreshadowing examples that help the reader figure out what is going on in the work. One of the first foreshadowing elements is from Madame Volmonde, Desiree’s orphan mother, “This is not the baby!” she exclaimed, in startling tones.”(1) This hints the reader that something is odd about the child and it also informs them to look out for other information regarding the baby. “Madame Valmonde had never removed her eyes from the child. She lifted it and walked with it over to the window that was the lightest”(1), the author uses these sentences to show that the baby’s skin color was strange and the family had noticed it.
Although they had not quite figured out what was awkward, many things started to change starting when Desiree compared her baby to the quadroon boys. “She looked from her child to the boy who stood beside him, and back again; over and over.”(3) She then knew that her baby was mixed and Desiree immediately goes to Armand and asks him what it means.” It means,” he answered lightly, “that the child is not white; it means that you are not white”(3), this indicates that Armand believes she is mixed but she protest against him.
In the end of Kate Chopin’s work Desiree and the baby leave on foot. “She did not take the broad, beaten road which led to the far-off plantation of Volmonde. She walked across a deserted field, where the stubble bruised her tender feet, so delicately shod, and tore her thin gown to shreds”(5), indicates that her and the baby did not make it. With Desiree and the baby already gone, the reader finds the ending to be ironic when Armand finds out his mother is Black and this gives a sense of closure to end the piece. Chopin uses the elements of symbolism and foreshadowing to create a more mysterious plot that keeps her readers interested throughout the entirety of the story but also so they can go deeper into the meaning and theme of it as a whole.