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Kate Chopin's Desiree's Baby Essay

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Stories about the tragic mulatto have conjured feelings of anger, racism, and sympathy since the 19th century. In Kate Chopin’s short story “Desiree’s Baby,” Desiree plays the role of the tragic mulatto. This is a person who believes they are white, but finds out that they are actually black. There are three categories of the tragic mulatto and often they are female. The first is a woman fair enough to pass for white. She falls in love with a white man, but her mixed identity is revealed and the story ends dreadfully. The second is a woman who appears white and hides her “mixed race status” by lying. She’s accepted as being European or Spanish. Once her identity is found out, she loses her place in the community. Lastly is a woman who is accepted and liked socially, but once her Black heritage is recognized, she is forced into slavery and is sexually dominated by her slave master. Desiree is a racial stereotype in the story because her ancestry is unknown. Peel states that “Desiree casts doubt on the meaning of race, sex and class” (Peel 223). Solely based on her looks, she is assumed white and adopted by a white family. When Armand, her husband, interprets their baby’s appearance, he assumes that “the child and the mother are not white” (225). Her missing identity forces her to act as the tragic mulatto. Racial identity is determined by family history where the assumption of race is through skin color.
The story takes place in an “antebellum Creole community ruled by institutions based on apparently clear dualities: master over the slave, white over black, and man over woman” (224). The South was marked with a racial system known as the “one drop- rule”, which meant that “any person with one drop of black blood was deemed black...


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...His whole life he thought he knew himself. In the end Desiree is the more tragic mulatto. She is white but plays the role as a mulatto and kills herself along with the baby.



Works Cited

Shen, Dan. "Implied Author, Overall Consideration, And Subtext Of "Désirée's Baby.." Poetics Today 31.2 (2010): 285. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.
Chopin, Kate. “Desiree’s Baby .” Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 2014.
Pegues, Dagmar. "Fear And Desire: Regional Aesthetics And Colonial Desire In Kate Chopin's Portrayals Of The Tragic Mulatta Stereotype." Southern Literary Journal 43.1 (2010): 1. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
Peel, Ellen. "Semiotic Subversion In 'Désirée's Baby'." American Literature 2 (1990): 223. JSTOR Arts & Sciences I. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.



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