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Desiree, the central character to the story, is a foundling discovered by Monsieur Valmont on the gateway to his estate. She is later raised by him and his wife, Madame Valmonde, who sees her as gift from god, as the couple cannot have their own children. Later Desiree falls in love with a wealthy man, Armand Aubigny, and they get married. Soon she gives birth to a baby boy, who at first brings incredible joy to her and her husband, but later becomes a cause of sorrow. As the baby grows his skin darkens and Armand accuses Desiree of not being white. Afterwards she is sent out of the house. Her mother tells her to come live back with her at Valmonde, but desiree does not take the road leading to her parents house, instead she disappears in the bayou together with her son.
Madame Valmonde is stepmother of Desiree. When she visits her stepdaughter and her baby, she notices that her grandson looks different than the last time she saw him. It is apparent that Desiree does not see anything wrong with the baby so she does tell her anything. After couple of months she receives a desperate letter from Desiree, asking her to assure her daughter of her whiteness, as Armand suggest otherwise. Madam Valmonde responds to Desiree with a letter asking her to come back to live with her at Valmonde.
Monsieur Valmonde finds little Desiree at the gateway to his estate and brings her home with him to his wife. Together they raise her. When Armand falls in love with Desiree and wants to marry her, Monsieur Valmonde suggests that Desiree’s origins should be examined first, before their relationship proceeds. However, the young man is deeply in love and does not care about Desiree’s ancestors.
After his mother dies, eight-year-old Armand and his father leave Paris and move to L’Abri. At the age of eighteen he falls in love with Desiree. They soon get married and she gives birth to a baby boy. At first the newborn brings Armand a lot of joy and softens his hard manners, however, later he notices that as the baby grows he also appears darker. Armand feels enraged and accuses Desiree of not bring white. Afterwards he sends her away. Weeks later, he decides to burn Desiree’s belongings and finds a bundle of letters. Most of the letters are 'little scribblings’ from Desiree, but he also finds one letter from his mother to his father, where he learns that his mother 'belongs to the race that is cursed with the brand of slavery’.
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Désirée takes her son from the nurse and walks not to Valmondé but to the deserted bayou, where she disappears. She has presumably killed herself. Désirée could not handle the shame that will be inflicted upon her for having an interracial baby....