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 clearly sympathizes with the plight of people of mixed blood and points out the evils of a slave system that at once creates and condemns miscegenation. Her chief concern, however, is not with the South’s “peculiar institution,” a topic she rarely treated in her fiction. Rather, she concerns herself with her characters’ inner lives.
Certainly these lives confront external constraints. Désirée and Armand live in a world that values racial purity. To be black is to be condemned to a life of subservience; to be white is to inherit mastery. No matter how beautiful or how fair one may be, blood rules. Armand spends much time in the cottage of a slave named La Blanche, whose name suggests her skin color. Still, she is of mixed race, so she is a slave, and the quadroon boy who fans Désirée’s baby is probably the son of Armand and La Blanche. The most such a woman can hope for is to be treated well by her master and to be his concubine because she will never be his wife. Among Creoles, who pride themselves not only on their racial purity but also on their French heritage, the proper pedigree is especially important.
The characters’ world is also one in which women, like blacks, are second-class citizens. Women have certain fixed roles—daughter, wife, mother. Désirée’s world is small, moving between the neighboring plantations of her foster parents and her husband. She passes her days inside, and Armand is free to come...
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