Short Story #314: La Belle Zoraide by Kate Chopin

Title:  La Belle Zoraide

Author:  Kate Chopin


Book cover to The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin, by Kate Chopin and edited by Barbara H. Solomon; Signet Classics, 1976. Manna Loulou is a servant who must tell tales to Madame Delisle each night to help her to bed.  Delisle demands that they are true, so this night, Manna Loulou offers her the story of La belle Zoraide.  She was a slave to Madame Delariviere that everyone found beautiful, even though she was a mulatto.  Her mistress had trained her well and many look upon her admirably.  She even encourages Zoraide to consider marriage, though she insists that she marry Ambroise, a servant to Doctor Langle--who was also sweet on the mistress.  Zoraide has no interest in marrying him but soon develops a fondness and love for an African American slave named Mezor.  When she speaks to her mistress about marrying Mezor, her mistress is appalled by the idea.  Zoraide emphasizes that since she is a slave, the mistress could at least let her choose her husband.  The end result is that she is banned from Mezor, yet the two still manage to come together and eventually, Zoraide is pregnant.  The mistress instructs Langle to sell Mezor far away.  When she does give birth to their child, she is told that the baby died--even though it was actually sold.  Zoraide slips into a deep depression and does not resist being married to Ambroise.  Some time later, a person entered her room and she tells the person to be quiet because the baby is sleeping.  When the person examines the baby, it is just a collection of rags.  This continues long enough that the Mistress tries to bring the real baby back, but to no avail.  She only sees the bundle of rags as her baby.  After that, she went from being called the beautiful Zoraide to Zoraide the fool and spend the rest of her life clinging to the bundle of rags. 


It reminds me of Desire's Baby by Chopin in many ways.  It's curious I had not realized how often and to what degree Chopin spoke of race and slavery, but am finding more and more stories like these are fascinating as they engage the issue of race and gender, which at this time is not entirely new at this time, but to see Chopin doing it is just something I was unaware that makes me like her all the more!

Short Story #314 out of 365
Rating:  4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  11/01/2014
Source:  The Awakening and Selected Stories of Kate Chopin, by Kate Chopin and edited by Barbara H. Solomon; Signet Classics, 1976.  The story can also be found at this website for free.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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