“Beyond the Bayou” is Kate Chopin’s short story about a former slave overcoming a childhood terror.
Reading the story online
Time and place
When the story was written and published
Questions and answers
Critical articles about the story
Books that discuss Kate Chopin’s short stories
You can read the story online, although if you’re citing a passage for research purposes, you should check your citation against one of the accurate texts listed below.
In print you can find “Beyond the Bayou” 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.
- La Folle: African-American woman, a former slave, whose real name is Jacqueline, but who was frightened “out of her senses” as a child. “La Folle” in French refers to a madwoman, although La Folle’s “only mania” is that she will not cross an imaginary line beyond which are regions unknown to her
- P’tit Maître [in French, “Little Master”]: the present owner of the Bellissime [in French, “Most Beautiful”] plantation where La Folle lives. As a child, P’tit Maître “black with powder and crimson with blood” had come to La Folle’s mother’s cabin to escape pursuers
- Old Mis’: P’tit Maître’s mother
- Cheri [In French, “Dear,” “Darling,” or “Beloved”]: ten-year-old son of P’tit Maître
- Children and adults who live at Bellissime
- Doctor Bonfils [in French, “Good Son”]
- Tante [in French, “Aunt”] Lizette: La Folle‘s friend, also living at Bellissime
- Chéri’s mother
The story takes place in the late nineteenth-century, decades after the Civil War, at Bellissime, the Louisiana plantation of P’tit Maître. La Folle‘s cabin is separated from the newer plantation buildings by a bayou which La Folle does not cross. The story begins on a Saturday afternoon and ends the next morning.
As we explain in the questions and answers below, some readers approach “Beyond the Bayou” as a children’s story. Others see La Folle’s isolation as psychological as well as physical and think of her as moving “from solitude to the communal life of the plantation.” You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopin’s stories and novels on the Themes page of this site–and see the questions and answers below.
It’s an early story, written on November 7, 1891, and published in Youth’s Companion on June 15, 1893. Like several Chopin short stories, it’s a children’s story. It was reprinted in Chopin’s collection of stories Bayou Folk in 1894.
Q: I’ve not heard of this story. Do people know about it? Do critics like it?
A: Yes, and yes–at least some critics do. It appears in several anthologies and college textbooks. And a collection of articles about Chopin’s work is titled Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou.
Q: Is Youth’s Companion, the magazine where this story was first published, the same magazine that also first printed the American “Pledge of Allegiance”?
A: Yes. Youth’s Companion printed the pledge in 1892, the year before publishing Chopin’s “Beyond the Bayou.” The pledge later became a tradition in American public life.
Q: What do you mean when you say that “Beyond the Bayou” is a children’s story?
A: Twenty-six of the short stories Kate Chopin wrote are ones she sent to magazines intended for children–magazines like Youth’s Companion or Harper’s Young People–or ones with subjects and themes similar to those. Today we know Chopin mostly through her works about intelligent, sensitive, adult women seeking integrity, independence, and fulfillment, struggling with social and cultural constraints. But Chopin had other subjects for her work, and some of those subjects appealed to children.
Several of her children’s stories deal with traumatized adults. Critic Thomas Bonner speaks of La Folle’s “self-imposed isolation” and notes that in this character, Kate Chopin “merges her exploration of alienation and the psychological effects of fear.”
And critic Barbara Ewell says that the bayou in the story is “a psychological as well as a physical barrier, and crossing it marks La Folle’s transition from solitude to the communal life of the plantation.”
Q: Did other nineteenth-century American authors we think of as classic writers of works for adults also write for children?
A: Yes, among them Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Sara Orne Jewett. Some authors began by writing for children and then turned their attention to adults. But Kate Chopin, perhaps because she was raising six children herself, wrote for both adults and children throughout her career.
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.
Mayer, Gary H. “A Matter of Behavior: A Semantic Analysis of Five Kate Chopin Stories.” ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 67.1 (2010): 94-104.
Barrio Marco, José Manuel “The Image of La Folle in Kate Chopin’s ‘Beyond the Bayou’.” Nor Shall Diamond Die: American Studies in Honour of Javier Coy. 33-41. Valencia, Spain: Universitat de València, 2003.
Nixon, Timothy K. “Same Path, Different Purpose: Chopin’s La Folle and Welty’s Phoenix Jackson.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 32.8 (2003): 937-956.
Skredsvig, Kari Meyers “Mapping Gender: Feminist Cartographies in Kate Chopin’s ‘Regionalist’ Stories.” Revista de Filología y Lingüística de la Universidad de Costa Rica 29.1 (2003): 85-101.
Llewellyn, Dara “Reader Activation of Boundaries in Kate Chopin’s ‘Beyond the Bayou’.” Studies in Short Fiction 33.2 (1996): 255-262.
Green, Suzanne D. “Fear, Freedom and the Perils of Ethnicity: Otherness in Kate Chopin’s ‘Beyond the Bayou’ and Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Sweat’.” Southern Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the South 5.3-4 (1994): 105-124.
Toth, Emily “Kate Chopin Thinks Back Through Her Madness: Three Stories by Kate Chopin.” Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. 15-25. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1992.
Rowe, Anne “A Note on ‘Beyond the Bayou’.” Kate Chopin Newsletter 1.2 (1975): 7-9.
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.
Shaker, Bonnie James. Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s Youth’s Companion Stories. U of Iowa P, 2003.
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.