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“dah you is, settin’ down, lookin’ jis’ like w’ite folks!” Ethnicity Enacted in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction

  • Janet Beer

Abstract

The cultural norms which are established, inscribed and valorised in Kate Chopin’s earliest stories are those of a Europe which is populated by people who are artistically sensitive, gifted and well-educated, some of whom have found their way to America, or, to be more specific, to Louisiana or into the Creole community of St Louis. This elite, featured in stories like ‘Wiser than a God’, published in the Philadelphia Musical Journal, and ‘With the Violin’, published in the St Louis Post-Dispatch,1 both in 1889, comes endowed with values which are transcendent in the formation of the larger culture of the New World. The dedication of Paula Von Stoltz to her piano, or the proof of access of even such lowly working men as Papa Konrad to the finest music, makes the point that the higher things are derived from Europe and that such foreignness is positive, aesthetically sophisticated, civilised and civilising. As a result of this, however, those who do not derive from European society, that is, the enslaved, have no right of access to the values intrinsic in all things from the old country(ies) of the white population. So these early stories, at times awkwardly written with the stilted, self-conscious language which is typical of Chopin when not quite at her ease with her material, nevertheless set the tone, more than the tone, set the social structure within which her fiction operates.

Keywords

Short Story Complete Work European Culture Married Life North American Literature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Toth, Emily Kate Chopin (London: Century, 1990) p. 414.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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    Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths & Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-colonial Literatures (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 5.
    The Awakening and Selected Stories, introduced by Sandra Gilbert (London: Penguin Books, 1984), p. 16.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Chopin, Kate The Complete Works of Kate Chopin (ed. Per Seyersted) (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969, repr. 1993), p. 304.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    JanMohamed, Abdul R. ‘The Economy of Manichean Allegory: The Function of Racial Difference in Colonialist Literature’, Critical Enquiry (12, 1985, 1), pp. 59–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin (New York: The Ungar Publishing Company, 1986), p. 123.Google Scholar
  8. 36.
    Peel, Ellen ‘Semiotic Subversion in “Desiree’s Baby”’, American Literature (Vol. 62, 2, June 1990), p. 233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Janet Beer 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janet Beer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishRoehampton InstituteLondonUK

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