The Significance of Historical Setting
Desirees Baby, by Kate Chopin, is not only a story about a mother and her child, but one of hatred and prejudices during the time in which they lived. Armand Aubigny, not knowing the origin of Desiree, fell madly in love with her as quick as a pistol shot. They were married immediately and soon after Desiree gave birth to a baby. Unfortunately, as the baby grew older, a particular feature stood out which changed the attitude of Armand towards Desiree and the baby. Armand decided, almost as quickly as he fell in love, that he no longer loved Desiree and their baby due to a racial barrier.
The story is set in the 1800s when colonization in America was flourishing and slavery was a part of everyday life. Blacks were still referred to as negroes and picked cotton on plantations, while their masters/employers led an easy-going and indulgent life. Although, it is not clear if the story took place while slavery prevailed or just after the abolishment of slavery, for the mind set of the people was extremely prejudice, even after the integration of the different races. The Deep South, in which the story took place, was especially close minded towards the black race and interracial relationships were more or less a sin.
White men were the dominant figures of society and had a dominant role in the family life. Armand took care of his family until he noticed that the babys ethnicity was not entirely white, then he disowned Desiree and the baby by telling her to leave. This incident paralleled the mind set of the white man in the 1800s, where if a black slave did not satisfy his master in any way, he would have been lynched or kicked off the plantation with no other reason than being unsatisfactory.
Desiree was rejected by her husband who thought she wasnt of white decent, when, in fact, it was Armand who belonged to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery. His ignorance led to the death of a woman he once loved and his interracial son. Because of color, people of the Deep South were treated like animals rather than equal human beings. During this era, blacks served as scapegoats to all of the mishaps and problems that occurred in the society; thus Desirees baby was an outcast in the society dominated by the white race and was better off with his mother.