Brief Biography of Kate Chopin
Kate Chopin was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family of Irish and French descent. At age five, her family sent her to study at Sacred Heart Academy, where she learned various life skills, such as handling money, and became an avid reader. She suffered many losses during the American Civil War, including the death of her great-grandmother. In 1870, she married Oscar Chopin and settled in New Orleans, where she had six children in the next nine years. In 1879, the family relocated to Cloutierville, as Oscar’s cotton brokerage had failed, and found work in managing several small plantations and a general store. The Creoles of Cloutierville formed the inspiration for Kate’s later writing. After the death of Oscar in 1882, Kate moved back to St. Louis, her birthplace, where she began writing as a way to stave off her depression from the deaths of her husband and mother. She became quite successful, but never made much money from writing, and had to depend on investments and her mother’s inheritance to support her. She died at age 54 from a brain hemorrhage.
Historical Context of At the ’Cadian Ball
“At the ’Cadian Ball” takes place after the end of the 19th century in the American South, where the culture tended to be more conservative than in the Northern United States or in Europe. Although the Civil War had already concluded, racism was still prevalent. Readers can see this in the fact that only white people are allowed at the ’Cadian ball, and in the fact that Alcée owns a black servant whom he, in effect, treats as a black slave. The late-19th century was also a time where women’s suffrage was gaining increasing momentum. While women’s suffrage is not explicitly present in the story, readers can perceive through Calixta’s refusal to conform to feminine standards that such feminist topics did weigh on Chopin’s mind.
Other Books Related to At the ’Cadian Ball
“At the ’Cadian Ball” explores the lives of young Creoles and Acadians in Louisiana. It is the prequel to her famous short story “The Storm,” and details why Alcée and Calixta came to marry other people. Readers can detect strands of feminism and naturalism in the story. Chopin’s exploration of upsetting the traditional standards of feminine decorum makes her the forerunner of later female writers from the American South, such as Zora Neale Hurston, author of Their Eyes Were Watching God
, and Flannery O’Connor, author of iconic shorts stories like “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Her use of naturalistic elements finds its generic origin in the naturalist manifesto, “The Experimental Novel,” and various works of Émile Zola. It is important to note that American Naturalism is somewhat different, theoretically speaking, from European Naturalism, incorporating more Romantic elements, though there is no critical consensus as to the definition of the genre. Other American Naturalist writers include Theodore Dreiser (Sister Carrie
), Jack London (The Call of the Wild
), and Stephen Crane (The Red Badge of Courage
Key Facts about At the ’Cadian Ball
Full Title: At the ’Cadian Ball
When Written: July 15-17, 1892
Where Written: St. Louis, Missouri
When Published: October 22, 1892
Literary Period: American Realism and Naturalism
Genre: Short story
Setting: Late-19th century Louisiana
Climax: Clarisse arrives at the ’Cadian ball.
Point of View: Third person
Extra Credit for At the ’Cadian Ball