Désirée’s Baby: Criticism of the One-Drop Rule Essay example

Désirée’s Baby: Criticism of the One-Drop Rule Essay example

Length: 1654 words (4.7 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Application of the hypodescent rule, while not yet written into law, had been a tradition in American racial categorization since the start of slavery. In her short story, “Désirée’s Baby,” Kate Chopin addresses the practice as it was applied in the “one-drop rule,” the notion that an individual with white complexion may be deemed black by society given the presence of any African ancestry. Chopin eloquently places Désirée, the story’s protagonist, at the intersection of the two races, highlighting the flaws and inadequacies of the one-drop rule. The plots progression, culminating in Désirée’s removal from white society and possible death, may indicate a text working to criticize racial prejudice; however, such interpretations become increasingly difficult to maintain in light of Chopin’s heavily racist undertones. Placing the dominant theory of racial assignment under a microscope, “Désirée’s Baby” works toward the conclusion that the one-drop rule is not only flawed by the unfortunate repercussions the method leads to, but essentially doomed by the absurdity of the concepts it stands upon. While it may seem contradictory, Chopin’s conclusion is strengthened by the use of an implicitly prejudiced text, a tactic allowing for the further scrutiny of social mores within a system they were designed to uphold.
Chopin sets the context for her argument by Placing Désirée in an environment where she can be made black easily, but with significant consequences. Despite Désirée’s ability to effortlessly assimilate into southern society, taking on the role of the “beautiful, gentle, affectionate and sincere” southern belle, the story never loses sight of her “obscure origin” (#). As a result, Désirée is not given the opportunity to prove h...


... middle of paper ...


...ore absurd if disproven in an environment characterized by heavy racial tensions. If the short story is read as an indictment of the one-drop rule in spite of racism, it may be Chopin’s attempt to halt a system where anyone can be made black, placing white individuals at risk. However, it is also capable of taking on a more timeless, didactic meaning. The reading, rather than a criticism purely of the one-drop rule, stands to force the reader to question the legitimacy of prevailing social mores, even those that may appear to correspond with the dominant opinions of the time. Whether racism was utilized by Chopin ironically or was merely an unavoidable attribute of her setting is irrelevant; its presence highlights the absurdity of hypodescent categorization, which would expand to support the anti-miscegenation and Jim Crow Laws that defined the postbellum years.


Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Desiree’s Baby: Prejudiced Criticism of the One-Drop Rule Essay

- “Desiree’s Baby” provides insight into the application of the hypodescent rule in plantation-era Louisiana, depicting individuals of mixed race who are marked and assigned to the subordinate social group. In her short story, “Desiree’s Baby,” Kate Chopin addresses the practice as it was applied to the “one-drop rule,” the notion that an individual with white complexion may be deemed black by society given the presence of any African ancestry. Desiree, the story’s protagonist, is eloquently placed at the intersection of the two races, victimized in order to highlight the flaws and inadequacies of the rule....   [tags: Racial Issues, Era of Slavery]

Powerful Essays
1229 words (3.5 pages)

The One-Drop Rule Essay

- The growth in the multiracial population in the United States of America since the 1970’s has greatly increased and is continuing to increase. Although the number of biracial and multiracial Americans is relatively small to the total population at 5 million, the multiracial population is growing at a rate of ten times faster than that of the White population (Stuckey 2008). These facts weren’t officially known until the United States government’s verdict to allow individuals to claim multiple races on the 2000 US census....   [tags: Racial Issues]

Powerful Essays
2259 words (6.5 pages)

Kate Chopin's Desiree's Baby Essay

- 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....   [tags: short story analysis, racial identity]

Powerful Essays
960 words (2.7 pages)

The Difficulties Faced by Modern Day High School Drop Outs Essay

- In the generation of our parents it was an easy task to find a job. A person could work as a janitor, a cleaner in houses, in a restaurant or even in the farms. No one would ask if they finished or graduated high school. Before it wasn’t a big issue, but now if someone wants to work at a fast food place like McDonalds, Burger King or Wendy’s taking orders or flipping patties or just mopping floors. The first that the manager will ask is if they are currently in school or if they graduated from high school....   [tags: Education]

Powerful Essays
1002 words (2.9 pages)

The Jungle Book in Detailed Form Essays

- Beginning: One very warm evening in the hills of Seeone, Father Wolf woke up from his rest day, he scratch himself, yawned and spread out his paws to get rid of the sleepy sensation, and the mother wolf lay down on her little baby’s while the moon shone on the cave were all they lived. Aught!. Is time to hunt again said the father wolf, when he was going down the hill a shadow past with a bushy tail and said: good luck goes with you, it was the Chief of the wolfs. It was Tabiqui; all wolfs hate Tabiqui because he runs all around making mischiefs, telling tales, eating rags and pieces of leather from the village rubbish heaps....   [tags: wolf, baby]

Powerful Essays
1043 words (3 pages)

Federal Baby Doll Rule Essay

- ... If parents or physicians decide to withhold treatment when the exceptions are not met, the parents and/or physicians can be held accountable for medical neglect. In 1988, “Baby Doe” Rules came into effect. “The term withholding of medically indicated treatment means the failure to respond to the infants life-threatening conditions by providing treatment which, in the treating physician’s reasonable medical judgment, will be most likely to be effective in ameliorating or correcting all such conditions, except that the term does not include the failure to provide treatment to an infant when, in the treating physician’s reasonable medical judgment any of the following circumstances apply” (...   [tags: newborn, congenital defects, baby]

Powerful Essays
1161 words (3.3 pages)

Decreasing Drop Out Rates Essay

- Decreasing the Drop-Outs (draft) Students dropping out from school are among one of the larger problems faced in the country. It is a serious problem that is often ignored by the schools and districts, and can offer even simple solutions to keep kids in the classroom. From the personal view of a normal student, school is stressful—but it’s supposed to be a challenge. It’s practically divided into few categories: kids who strive to learn and be successful and kids who don’t wish to have anything to do with school....   [tags: Students, High School, Drop Outs, Education]

Powerful Essays
1115 words (3.2 pages)

Analysis of Desiree Baby by Kate Chopin Essay

- “Desiree Baby” by Kate Chopin is a very thought provoking short story that deals with racism, prejudice, and love. The story takes place in southern Louisiana, where Armand, a prominent landowner, marries a girl of unknown origin named Desiree. The story has a twist when their baby is born and is discovered to be of mixed race. Armand knew all along that he was OF mixed race, and I will prove it by analyzing characterization, diction, and imagery. The characterization of Armand showed that he knew all along about his ethnicity....   [tags: racism, prejudice, desiree baby]

Powerful Essays
546 words (1.6 pages)

Kate Chopin's Desiree's Baby Essay

- Desiree's Baby is a short story written by Kate Chopin. It is set in 19th century Louisiana. The story starts with Madame Valmonde going to visit Desiree and her baby. She thinks back on her memories of Desiree as a baby: "It made her laugh to think of Desiree with a baby. Why it seemed but yesterday that Desiree was little more than a baby herself." This quote tells us two things. The first is that Madame Valmonde must have known Desiree as a child and is either a close family friend of even a member of the family herself....   [tags: Desiree's Baby by Kate Chopin]

Free Essays
1756 words (5 pages)

Kate Chopin's Desiree's Baby Essay

- Kate Chopin's Desiree's Baby This essay will focus on the short story by Kate Chopin and its use of symbols, setting and characters. Desiree’s baby was perhaps one of the best stories I’ve ever read. Analyzing it was not easy at all. Its use of symbols was very hard to comprehend. At first, it doesn’t make sense. But as you think critically, all the symbols, and setting and the characters in this literature plunge together in one amazing story....   [tags: Kate Chopin Desiree's Baby]

Powerful Essays
1392 words (4 pages)