What are ways a person can become a willing participant in injustice when he/she is trying to be just in "Desiree's Baby" by Kate Chopin?


A person's silence can often be misinterpreted as accord with a prevailing opinion. In Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby," Madame Valmonde is, indeed, an accomplice in the misjudgment of Desiree. First of all, that she maintains the social biases of her class is evinced in her thoughts on the baby Desiree whom she finds before her home:

[She] abandoned every speculation but the one that Desiree had been sent to her by a beneficent Providence to be the child of her affection.

This abandonment of "every speculation" is not made, however, when the impulsive Armand d'Aubigny desires to marry Desiree; for, she cautions Armand to consider Desiree's "obscure origin." Then, after the marriage, Desiree's gives birth to a boy.  When Madame Valmonde visits Desiree after having been absent for a month, she looks at the baby and, "in startled tones," she exclaims "This is not the baby!" Carrying him to the window, she scrutinizes the baby in the light, while simultaneously glancing back at the servant.  Thus, without a word, Madame Valmonde indicates that she notices similarities between the quadroon servant and the baby, who could as easily be one-quarter African. Her silence is a condemnation. 

And, finally, in the wake of Armaud's accusation to Desiree that she is not white, Mme. Valmonde responds to her desperate daughter's letter about Armaud's challenges with no denial of his racial charges; instead, she only writes "briefly,"

"My own Desiree: Come home to Valmonde; back to your mother who loves you. Come with your child."  

Clearly, it has long been in Madame Valmonde's mind that Desiree may have been abandoned because she was the child of a slave and her master. Thus, she has contributed to both the judgment of Armaud and the fate of the scorned Desiree, thus helping to doom the young woman to despair.

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