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Symbols in Desiree's Baby

Symbols: Perhaps the central symbol in “Désiree’s Baby” is that of stone, which serves multiple functions. The stone pillar, for example, symbolizes the steadfastness of tradition and old norms, many of which are damaging. When Désirée is described in proximity or comparison to stone, it is her passivity and powerlessness that becomes most clear. The other key symbol is fire, which represents Armand’s passions, both lustful and violent.

Symbols Examples in Desiree's Baby:

Désirée's Baby

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"She was like a stone image..."   (Désirée's Baby)

Although this is not the stone pillar from before, Chopin associates Désirée with the imagery of stone to symbolize a transition in Désirée’s life. An earlier reference to her as the “idol of Valmondé” can be recalled here, reinforcing the societal emphasis on appearance under which Désirée now suffers. Earlier in her life it served as a benefit to be judged by her appearance; now her “stone image” is devoid of power.

"seeing her there..."   (Désirée's Baby)

Notice that Désirée is standing by the same stone pillar when she meets Armand. The stone pillar thus also symbolizes the various transitions that Désirée experiences throughout her life. Under this stone pillar, Désirée was given her first home, and now that she has won the affection of Armand, Désirée will move to a new home once again. However, consider how Désirée is a passive bystander, claimed by others during both of these transitions. Her quiet and passive role in both situations emphasizes the position of women in society at this time.

"in the shadow of the big stone pillar...."   (Désirée's Baby)

In rural Louisiana, a large stone pillar would seem fairly conspicuous. So, readers should see the pillar as a distinct symbol in this short story. Consider that baby Désirée’s position in the dark shadows of the pillar symbolizes the mysterious circumstances of her birth. Her past is unknown to both the reader and the Valmondés, creating a tone of secrecy and mystery. As the pillar stands at the gates of the Valmondé estate, it also symbolizes the family’s wealth and Désirée’s privileged upbringing.

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