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Désirée’s Baby: An Alternate Ending?

Kate Chopin

I’ve noticed this question coming up a lot lately in my site statistics, and it strikes me in the same way as an alternate ending for Edna’s story; I’m going to address it.

In sum, it would be difficult to say that there could be an alternative ending without losing what Chopin is saying. If Désirée’s Baby ended positively, there wouldn’t be much of a story, just a small study about race; it wouldn’t have much of a place in literary studies today.

But, if we do muse on the idea that there could be an alternative ending, what do we suggest? First and foremost would be that Désirée and her baby would not die. For that to happen, Désirée must not be heartbroken and in despair.

For that to happen, Armand would need to have a different personality. He would have to not be against the idea of a mixed-race wife, or he would have to be aware of his heritage early on. (There is an article by Margaret D Bauer that suggests Armand knew about his heritage all along but it is not available online. The article’s called ‘Armand Aubigny, Still Passing after All These Years: The Narrative Voice and Historical Context Of “Désirée’s Baby”‘; it’s included in Critical Essays On Kate Chopin, edited by Alice Hall Petry. It also appears to be in Race And Culture In New Orleans Stories, edited by James Nagal.)

The thing is, if Armand was not against the idea of a mixed-race wife and subsequent child, he might not have been in a position to marry Désirée. If his relations with La Blanche are anything to go by, he might, in such a situation, have married another. This would completely change his character: it’s likely that in the story as it is, he’s sleeping with La Blanche because he can as her ‘owner’. The quadroon mentioned in the story, La Blanche’s child, is quite possibly his.

And if Armand knew about his heritage, again, his character might well be different.

There is another possibility for an alternate ending: Désirée could have left Armand and gone home. Perhaps others in her situation would have. Certainly Valmondé wanted her to return. If she did, Chopin’s point would still remain but it wouldn’t be nearly as strong as it is in the actual tale – Armand would still be ‘able’ to burn the affects and find the letter, but the story would be about racial issues leading solely to heartbreak instead of heartbreak with no way to return. In Chopin’s ending, Désirée’s choice is symbolic; she shows how awful racism is.

If you’ve read the story, what do you think about a different ending?

 
 

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