Throughout time, humans struggled with issues of conformity and individuality. In the modern world, individuality is idealized, as it is associated with strength. Weak individuals are usually portrayed as conforming to society and having almost no personal ideas. In “Desiree’s Baby”, a short story, the author Kate Chopin deals with the struggles of African descendants in the French colonies during the time of slave labor. The protagonist is a white woman named Desiree who is of unknown origin and birth as she was found abandoned as an infant at an aristocrat’s doorstep. Eighteen years after her discovery, she and a fellow aristocrat, Armand Aubigny, fall in love and get married. They soon have a child, yet conflict arises when the child is discovered to be black. The young family is destroyed when the baby’s father, Armand, refuses to accept the child. In “Desiree’s Baby”, Chopin demonstrates through Armand’s conflicts how weak humans conform to environmental norms.
Armand is shown to be a weak character by his internal conflict himself. Armand’s weakness is initially shown by the way he treats his slaves. Although there is evidence to support that Armand is a man characteristic of the time, he seems to actually have benevolent feelings towards slaves. However, he is too weak express these feelings and instead acts in a rather strict manner: “Young Aubigny’s rule was a strict one, too, and under it his negroes had forgotten how to be gay, as they had been during the old master’s easy-going and indulgent lifetime,” (Chopin 9). In addition to his internal conflict about treatment of slaves, this quotation tells the reader a great deal about Armand’s general weakness as an individual. Besides the fact that his forcefulness is str...
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...the theme that weak individuals succumb to societal norms regardless of their own feelings. Armand shows that he is a weak character, yet there are signs that some of his beliefs are progressive. However, because of the weakness in his personality, Armand is unable to express these beliefs. Rather, he is forced to destroy something of great importance to himself simply because he is too weak to stand up for his beliefs. Through the ironic ending in which Armand discovers that he is the donor of the black gene, Chopin teaches the danger of being a weak individual: Armand is punished for his weakness by Desiree, a woman he once loved, leaving while at the same time bearing the knowledge that he is of a race that he himself hates. Chopin presents the challenge to all humans to strive for individuality and self-esteem, lest they too fall victim to their own weaknesses.
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