“At the ’Cadian Ball” is Kate Chopin’s prequel to her famous short story “The Storm,” describing how Calixta and Alcée came to marry other people.
“At the ’Cadian Ball” is included in Bayou Folk, Kate Chopin’s first book of short stories. The sketch of an Acadian woman is the frontispiece of A Night in Acadia (1897), Chopin’s second book of short stories.
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
- Bobinôt: Acadian farmer; he appears also in Chopin’s short story “The Storm”
- Calixta: she too appears in “The Storm”
- Alcée Laballière: Creole planter; he appears in “The Storm” and “Croque-Mitaine” and is mentioned in “In and Out of Old Natchitoches”
- Clarisse: goddaughter of Alcée’s mother
- Bruce: servant of Alcée
- African American at the ball
The story takes place in the late nineteenth-century at the Louisiana plantation of Alcée Laballière, a few hours (in the 1890s) by train from New Orleans, at the nearby Friedheimer’s store, and at the ‘Cadian ball.
As we explain in the questions and answers below, some readers focus on the social relationships in the story, on the relationships between the Creoles—Clarisse and Alcée—and the Acadians—Calixta and Bobinôt.
You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopin’s stories and novels on the Themes page of this site.
The story was written between July 15 and 17, 1892, and published in Two Tales (Boston) on October 22, 1892. It was reprinted in Chopin’s collection of stories Bayou Folk in 1894.
Q: Did this story become known because it is a prequel to “The Storm”?
A: It certainly became better known after readers discovered “The Storm,” and from what we can tell, it was not much read before “The Storm” was published in the late 1960s. But it was, in fact, one of the first of Kate Chopin’s short stories to be reprinted after her death. It appeared in 1921 as one of sixteen local color stories in Short Stories of America edited by Robert L. Ramsay and published in Boston by Houghton Mifflin.
Q: Why doesn’t Clarisse go to the ‘Cadian Ball? And why is she upset that Alcée does?
A: It’s a partly matter of social class. Clarisse and Alcée are Creoles, descendants of French or Spanish settlers in Louisiana. Calixta and Bobinôt are Acadians, descendants of French-American exiles from Acadia, Nova Scotia, who were driven from their homes by the British in 1755. Most of the Creoles in Chopin’s stories are comparatively wealthy, usually landowners or merchants. Most of the Acadians (or ‘Cajuns) in the stories are much poorer, living off the land, farming or fishing or working for the Creoles. Clarisse takes her higher social status as a Creole seriously and thinks Alcée has no business at a ‘Cadian ball. “Nice conduc’ for a Laballière,” she says. She understands, though, that it is common for a Creole man to appear at such get togethers, perhaps in search of a liaison with a ‘Cadian woman. It would be unusual for a Creole woman to attend a ‘Cadian ball.
In addition, as Heather Ostman points out, although Clarisse does not go to the ball, she follows Alcée there. She may be concerned about Alcée meeting Calixta, because the two were involved in a well-known “ambiguous event at Assumption in the previous year.” Clarisse, Ostman notes, may be “betraying her underlying, deeper fear: she is afraid Alcée will leave her for Calixta.”
Q: I’ve read an article about “The Storm” that suggests Calixta has some African-American blood. Is that right?
A: No. Her mother is Cuban. Everyone in the community thinks of her as Acadian with some Spanish blood. As the story phrases it, “Any one who is white may go to a ‘Cadian ball, but he must pay for his lemonade, his coffee and chicken gumbo. And he must behave himself like a ‘Cadian.”
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.
Hebert-Leiter, Maria. “The Awakening Awakened.” In Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke, 57–78. Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2009.
Kirby, Lisa A. “‘So the Storm Passed…’: Interrogating Race, Class, and Gender in Chopin’s ‘At the ‘Cadian Ball’ and ‘The Storm’.” Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays. 91-104. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars, 2008.
Seay, Geraldine H. “Kate Chopin’s Source for ‘At the Cadian Ball’.” Southern Studies 8 (1997): 37-42.
Berkove, Lawrence I. “‘Acting Like Fools’: The Ill-Fated Romances of ‘At the ‘Cadian Ball’ and ‘The Storm’.” Critical Essays on Kate Chopin. 184-196. New York: Hall, 1996.
Koloski, Bernard. “The Anthologized Chopin: Kate Chopin’s Short Stories in Yesterday’s and Today’s Anthologies.” Louisiana Literature 11 (1994): 18-30.
Sempreora, Margot. “Kate Chopin as Translator: A Paradoxical Liberation.” Louisiana Literature 11 (1994): 83-96.
House, Elizabeth Balkman. “The Awakening: Kate Chopin’s ‘Endlessly Rocking’ Cycle.” Ball State University Forum 20.2 (1979): 53–8.
Casale, Ottavio Mark. “Beyond Sex: The Dark Romanticism of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.” Ball State University Forum 19.1 (1978): 76–80.
Arner, Robert D. “Kate Chopin’s Realism: ‘at the Cadian Ball’ and ‘the Storm’.” Markham Review 2.2 (1970): 1–4.
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.
Koloski, Bernard. “Introduction” Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin New York: Penguin, 1999.
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.