“A No-Account Creole” is Kate Chopin’s short story about a young New Orleans businessman in love with a woman who is engaged to marry another man.
Read the story online
Time and place
When the story was written and published
Questions and answers
New All of Kate Chopin’s short stories in Spanish
Articles and book chapters about the story
Books that discuss Kate Chopin’s short stories
In print you can find “A No-Account Creole” in The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, in the Penguin Classics edition of Chopin’s Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie, and in the Library of America Kate Chopin volume, as well as in other paperback and hardcover books. For publication information about these books, see the section “For students and scholars” near the bottom of this page.
- Wallace Offdean: New Orleans businessman
- Fitch: friend of Offdean
- Lucien Santien: before the Civil War, owner of a large property and a hundred slaves. He appears in Chopin’s story “Ma’ame Pélagie” and is mentioned in At Fault. His three grandsons play prominent roles in several of Chopin’s short stories and in At Fault. See the questions and answers below for information about Chopin’s repeating characters
- Jules Santien: son of Lucien and father of Hector, Grégoire, and Placid
- Hector Santien: New Orleans gambler, brother of Placide; he appears in “In and Out of Old Natchitoches”
- Placide Santien: engaged to marry Euphrasie
- Pierre Manton: manager of the old Santien place
- Lacroix: neighbor who owns mules
- Euphrasie Manton: Pierre Manton’s daughter; she appears also in “After the Winter”; Chopin first called this story “Euphrasie” and “Euphrasie’s Lovers”
- Mme. Duplan: “Lady Bountiful” of the area; she is the wife of Joe Duplan, owner of Les Chênièrs (the Oaks) plantation on the Cane River; the Duplans raised Euphrasie after her mother died; the couple appears also in At Fault, “A Rude Awakening,” “After the Winter,” and “Ozème’s Holiday”
- Gus Adams: apparently a neighbor
- La Chatte [in French, “The Cat”]: African American woman living on the old Santien place; she helped raise the Santien boys
- Rose: young woman on the porch of La Chatte’s cabin; she seems to be employed on the Santien place
- Uncle Noah: apparently an old man known to La Chatte
- Mme. Carantelle: Mme. Duplan’s mother
- Old Charlot: waters plants in Mme. Carantelle’s courtyard
- Judge Blount: “staid” gentleman of Orville, Louisiana
- ‘Tit-Edouard: maigre-échine [in French, “Skinny Man”] of Orville
- Uncle Abner and Luke Williams: also Orville men
The story takes place in Louisiana–in New Orleans, in Natchitoches, in Orville, and on the old Santien place, apparently in the 1880s
As we explain in the questions and answers below, some readers pose questions about the passive Euphrasie Manton, the enlightened Wallace Offdean, and Chopin’s repeating characters. Some are troubled by Chopin’s use of regional dialects in her characters’ speech or by her inclusion of words or phrases that are considered offensive today.
You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopin’s stories and novels on the Themes page of this site.
Except for a piece she wrote when she was about nineteen, this is Kate Chopin’s first short story. It was written in 1888, when Chopin was thirty-eight, and then rewritten between January 24 and February 24, 1891. It was published in the Century on January 24, 1894, and reprinted that year in Bayou Folk, Chopin’s first published collection of stories. Its earlier titles were “Euphrasie” and “Euphrasie’s Lovers.”
The first page of the story in The Century in 1894
Q: This is an upbeat story. Isn’t that unusual for Kate Chopin? I think of her works as pessimistic.
A: Some of Chopin’s works– The Awakening, “The Story of an Hour,” and “Désirée’s Baby,” among them–have dark closings. But some–At Fault, “Athénaïse,” “The Storm,”and others–are, in ways, hopeful, suggesting that in spite of social, economic, and other pressures, Chopin believes that people have a chance to find happiness.
Q: Aren’t Kate Chopin’s women usually more courageous? Euphrasie Manton knows what she wants but isn’t strong enough to reach for it.
A: Critics often see Euphrasie that way. She is, however, as critic Helen Taylor points out in the recent Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin, “a confused and inexperienced woman.” And she’s not entirely without resources. Like Thérèse Lafirme in Chopin’s At Fault (written soon after “A No-Account Creole”), she herself creates the situation that leads to the resolution of the story. Through her letters, she is, albeit unknowingly, responsible for the appearance of Offdean on the plantation and, therefore, in her life.
You might say that early Chopin characters like Euphrasie and Thérèse morph into later characters like Athénaïse, Mrs. Baroda in “A Respectable Woman,” Edna Pontellier in The Awakening, or Calixta in “The Storm.”
Q: Chopin’s description of Wallace Offdean is insightful: “He meant to use his faculties intelligently. . . . Above all, he would keep clear of the maelstroms of sordid work and senseless pleasure in which the average American business man may be said alternately to exist, and which reduce him, naturally, to a rather ragged condition of soul.” Are there other enlightened men like him in Chopin’s fiction?
A: There are some–David Hosmer in At Fault, Charlie’s father in “Charlie,” and Gouvernail in “A Respectable Woman,” “Athénaïse,” and, briefly, The Awakening.
Q: I had no idea that so many Kate Chopin characters appear in more than one story. These Santien brothers are all over the place. How would I find out about such characters? And is it common for writers to use the same characters over and over?
A: You can track Chopin’s characters in Thomas Bonner, Jr., The Kate Chopin Companion New York: Greenwood, 1988. It’s not unusual for other writers to do what Chopin does. William Faulkner, for one, is fond of repeating characters.
Q: I was upset seeing words like “negroes” and “darkies”in this story. Why did Chopin include them?
A: This painful subject requires a sense of historical imagination, historical empathy. Chopin’s language here is a picture of the way people in her time spoke to one another. Words like “darkey” and “Negro,” offensive for us in the twenty-first century, were used familiarly by people of color and white people in Chopin’s Louisiana, usually without intended rancor. Kate Chopin reproduced such language in her characters’ speech, as she reproduced people’s dialectal patterns. For her, as for Mark Twain and others of her generation, recording accurately the way people spoke was an important part of being a good writer.
Louisiana at the time was just a decade or so away from slavery. Chopin does not pretend that the color line is gone, that African Americans enjoy complete freedom and equality, or that everyone lives in racial harmony with everyone else. There are racial tensions in several of her stories.
Chopin was, of course, a nineteenth-century, white, Southern, American woman, but she was also deeply steeped in French culture, being bilingual and bi-cultural from birth. She shares both American and European attitudes toward race, and she always sees more than her characters do.
As we note on other pages of this site, there’s been a good deal written about Chopin and race. If you want to explore the subject you might start by reading articles by Anna Shannon Elfenbein, Helen Taylor, and Elizabeth Ammons in the Norton Critical Edition of The Awakening, and you might look at Bonnie James Shaker’s Coloring Locals. For a defense of Chopin you might start by checking Emily Toth’s Kate Chopin and Bernard Koloski’s Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction, and on line you could read Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s comments on the Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening site. You can find information about these and other publications about Chopin and race at the bottom of the Awakening page and the Short Stories page of this site, as well as on pages devoted to individual stories, like “Désirée’s Baby.”
Q: I love Kate Chopin, but at places in this and other short stories, I really struggle with understanding what her characters are saying. What about the Creole or other dialectal expressions? How do I deal with them?
A: You might try reading the stories aloud–or you might find a native speaker of English who can read them aloud with feeling. Chopin is capturing what her characters sound like as they speak, so it may be helpful to hear the story, rather than read it.
For example, here’s a passage from “A No-Account Creole” in which Pierre Manton is talking to Wallace Offdean. Pierre says that he himself would not be complaining about how run down the place has become:
“If it would been me myse’f, I would nevair grumb’. W’en a chimbly breck, I take one, two de boys; we patch ‘im up bes’ we know how. We keep on men’ de fence’, firs’ one place, anudder. . . .”
If you could hear that read aloud, you might understand better. In today’s standard English, Pierre would be saying something like:
“If it would [have] been me myself, I would never grumble. When a chimney breaks, I take one or two [of] the boys; we patch it up [the] best we know how. We keep on mending the fences, first [at] one place [and then at] another. . . .”
For students and scholars
The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Edited by Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969, 2006.
Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie. Edited by Bernard Koloski. New York: Penguin, 1999.
Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Edited by Sandra Gilbert. New York: Library of America, 2002.
Some of the articles listed here may be available on line through university or public libraries.
Taylor, Helen “‘The Perfume of the Past’: Kate Chopin and Post-Colonial New Orleans.” The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin. 147-160. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2008.
Despain, Max and Thomas Bonner, Jr. “Shoulder to Wings: The Provenance of Winged Imagery from Kate Chopin’s Juvenilia Through The Awakening.” Xavier Review 25.2 (2005): 49-64.
Brown, Pearl L. “Awakened Men in Kate Chopin’s Creole Stories.” American Transcendental Quarterly 13.1 (1999): 69-82.
Benfey, Christopher Degas in New Orleans: Encounters in the Creole World of Kate Chopin and George Washington Cable. Berkeley, CA: U of California P, 1997.
Bendel-Simso, Mary M. “Mothers, Women and Creole Mother-Women in Kate Chopin’s South.” Southern Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the South 3.1 (1992): 35-44.
Grover, Dorys Crow “Kate Chopin and the Bayou Country.” JASAT (Journal of the American Studies Association of Texas) 15.(1984): 29-34.
Koloski, Bernard, ed. Awakenings: The Story of the Kate Chopin Revival Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.
Beer, Janet. The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2008.
Ostman, Heather. Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars, 2008.
Arima, Hiroko. Beyond and Alone!: The Theme of Isolation in Selected Short Fiction of Kate Chopin, Katherine Anne Porter, and Eudora Welty Lanham, MD: UP of America, 2006.
Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.
Stein, Allen F. Women and Autonomy in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction New York: Peter Lang, 2005..
Walker, Nancy A. Kate Chopin: A Literary Life Basingstoke, England: Palgrave, 2001.
Toth, Emily. Unveiling Kate Chopin Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1999.
Koloski, Bernard. Kate Chopin: A Study of the Short Fiction New York: Twayne, 1996.
Petry, Alice Hall (ed.), Critical Essays on Kate Chopin New York: G. K. Hall, 1996.
Elfenbein, Anna Shannon. Women on the Color Line: Evolving Stereotypes and the Writings of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1994.
Boren, Lynda S. and Sara deSaussure Davis (eds.), Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1992.
Perspectives on KateChopin: Proceedings from the Kate Chopin International Conference, April 6, 7, 8, 1989 Natchitoches, LA: Northwestern State UP, 1992.
Toth, Emily. “Introduction” A Vocation and a Voice New York: Penguin, 1991.
Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton New York: Greenwood, 1990.
Toth, Emily. Kate Chopin. New York: Morrow, 1990.
Elfenbein , Anna Shannon. Women on the Color Line: Evolving Stereotypes and the Writings of George Washington Cable, Grace King, Kate Chopin Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 1989.
Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race, and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989.
Bonner, Thomas Jr., The Kate Chopin Companion New York: Greenwood, 1988.
Bloom, Harold (ed.), Kate Chopin New York: Chelsea, 1987.
Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin New York: Ungar, 1986.
Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin Boston: Twayne, 1985.
Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969.
Rankin, Daniel, Kate Chopin and Her Creole Stories Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1932.