Desiree's Baby
by Kate Chopin
Suitability: Age 13 to adult, mother tongue or EAL.
Questions are divided into three rough categories:
1. Literal
2. Inferential
3. Evaluative
Questions marked are more advanced.

1.1 What is the meaning of the following words in the context in which they appear:
   a) Riveted  (top page 1)
   b) Suffused  (bottom page 2)
   c) Plantation  (middle page 1)
   d) Beneficient  (middle page 1)
   e) Bayou  (bottom page 5)
   f) Peignoir  (bottom page 3)
   g) Quadroon  (bottom page 3)

1.2 What is the meaning of the phrase "He was reminded that she was nameless." in the context in which it appears?  (bottom page 1)

1.3 The answers to the following questions can be found in the text:
   a) Where had Madame Valmonde found Desiree for the first time when she was a baby?
   b) Why had Armand's mother never left France?
   c) What was Madame Valmonds's reply to Desiree's letter?
   d) During which month were they picking cotton at L'Abri?
   e) What did Armand have put on the bonfire?

1.4 In your own words:
   a) Describe Desiree.
   a) Describe how Desiree and Armand met and fell in love.

2.1 Describe and explain the changes in Armand Aubigny's behaviour as the story unfolds.

2.2 Why do you think there was an "air of mystery among the blacks" (middle page 3) and frequent visitors to L'Abri about 3 months after Desiree's baby was born?

2.3 Why was it assumed that Desiree was the reason her child was not white?

2.4 Why do you think Armand did not consider Desiree's origins before marrying her?

2.5 Before the last few lines of this story, are there any clues given by the author which hint at the true cause of the baby's appearance?

2.6 Why do you think "La Blanche" (bottom page 2) had that name?

3.1 Continue the story, describing what became of Armand, Desiree and their baby.

3.2 Do you think Armand burnt the last letter together with the rest?

3.3 Would Armand's treatment of his wife be condoned by society today? Give reasons for your answer.

3.4 Do you believe there are circumstances in which Armand would behave in the same way today?

3.5 Write a contemporary version of Desiree's Baby but set your story in a different part of the world.

3.6 Why did Desiree ask her husband if he wanted her to go and then act on his decision? Do you think this merely reflected her character, or society at the time of the story?

3.7 Why was French the language spoken in Valmonde?

3.8 Discuss Desiree's, Armand's or Madame Valmonde's knowledge of the situation through the story and how it affects their actions or lack of action. You may like to consider the following:
- When Armand reads the letter at the end, is this new knowledge? How can you explain his changing attitudes towards Desiree and the slaves?
- What does Madame Valmonde realise about the child's origins? Why would she not take action early on?
- Is it likely that Desiree had realised that her child was of mixed race before seeing the quadroon boy fanning the baby?

3.9 Discuss the relationship between Armand's mother and father.

3.10 Discuss why a person's race has been such a divisive issue.
 Questions by Jane Quest