“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
New All of Kate Chopin’s short stories in Spanish
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 near the bottom of this page.
- La Folle: 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.
Fox, Heather A. Arranging Stories: Framing Social Commentary in Short Story Collections by Southern Women Writers. University Press of Mississippi, 2022.
Ostman, Heather. Kate Chopin and Catholicism. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.
Ostman, Heather, and Kate O’Donoghue, eds. Kate Chopin in Context: New Approaches. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. The book contains these essays:
Koloski, Bernard. “Chopin’s Enlightened Men”: 15–27.
Walker, Rafael. “Kate Chopin and the Dilemma of Individualism”: 29–46.
Armiento, Amy Branam. “‘A quick conception of all that this accusation meant for her’: The Legal Climate at the Time of ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 47–64.
Rossi, Aparecido Donizete. “The Gothic in Kate Chopin”: 65–82.
Gil, Eulalia Piñero. “The Pleasures of Music: Kate Chopin’s Artistic and Sensorial Synesthesia”: 83–100.
Ostman, Heather. “Maternity vs. Autonomy in Chopin’s ‘Regret’”: 101–15.
Merricks, Correna Catlett. “‘I’m So Happy; It Frightens Me’: Female Genealogy in the Fiction of Kate Chopin and Pauline Hopkins”: 145–58.
Sehulster, Patricia J. “American Refusals: A Continuum of ‘I Prefer Not Tos’ as Articulated in the Work of Chopin, Hawthorne, Harper, Atherton, and Dreiser”: 159–72.
Rajakumar, Mohanalakshmi and Geetha Rajeswar. “What Did She Die of? ‘The Story of an Hour’ in the Middle East Classroom”: 173–85.
O’Donoghue, Kate. “Teaching Kate Chopin Using Multimedia”: 187–202.
James Nagel. Race and Culture in New Orleans Stories: Kate Chopin, Grace King, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, and George Washington Cable. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2014.
Brosman, Catharine Savage. Louisiana Creole Literature: A Historical Study. UP of Mississippi, 2013.
Wan, Xuemei. Beauty in Love and Death—An Aesthetic Reading of Kate Chopin’s Works [in Chinese]. China Social Sciences P, 2012.
Hebert-Leiter, Maria. Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2009.
Gale, Robert L. Characters and Plots in the Fiction of Kate Chopin. Jefferson, N C: McFarland, 2009.
Beer, Janet, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 2008. The book contains these essays:
Knights, Pamela. “Kate Chopin and the Subject of Childhood”: 44–58.
Castillo, Susan. “’Race’ and Ethnicity in Kate Chopin’s Fiction”: 59–72.
Joslin, Katherine. “Kate Chopin on Fashion in a Darwinian World”: 73–86.
Worton, Michael. “Reading Kate Chopin through Contemporary French Feminist Theory”: 105–17.
Horner, Avril. “Kate Chopin, Choice and Modernism”: 132–46.
Taylor, Helen. “Kate Chopin and Post-Colonial New Orleans”: 147–60.
Ostman, Heather, ed. Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays. Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. The book contains these essays:
Kornhaber, Donna, and David Kornhaber. “Stage and Status: Theatre in the Short Fiction of Kate Chopin”: 15–32.
Thrailkill, Jane F. “Chopin’s Lyrical Anodyne for the Modern Soul”: 33–52.
Johnsen, Heidi. “Kate Chopin in Vogue: Establishing a Textual Context for A Vocation and a Voice”: 53–69.
Batinovich, Garnet Ayers. “Storming the Cathedral: The Antireligious Subtext in Kate Chopin’s Works”: 73–90.
Kirby, Lisa A. “‘So the storm passed . . .’: Interrogating Race, Class, and Gender
in Chopin’s ‘At the ’Cadian Ball’ and ‘The Storm’”: 91–104.
Frederich, Meredith. “Extinguished Humanity: Fire in Kate Chopin’s ‘The Godmother’”: 105–18.
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.
Lohafer, Susan. Reading for Storyness: Preclosure Theory, Empirical Poetics and Culture in the Short Story. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2003.
Shaker, Bonnie James. Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s Youth’s Companion Stories. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2003.
Perrin-Chenour, Marie-Claude. Kate Chopin: Ruptures [in French]. Paris, France: Belin, 2002.
Evans, Robert C. Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction: A Critical Companion. West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill, 2001.
Koloski, Bernard, ed. Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin. New York: Penguin, 1999.
Beer, Janet. Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Studies in Short Fiction. New York: Macmillan–St. Martin’s, 1997.
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. The book contains these essays:
Pollard, Percival. “From Their Day in Court“: 67–70.
Reilly, Joseph J. “Stories by Kate Chopin”: 71–74.
Skaggs, Peggy. “The Boy’s Quest in Kate Chopin’s ‘A Vocation and a Voice’”: 129–33.
Dyer, Joyce [Coyne]. “The Restive Brute: The Symbolic Presentation of Repression and Sublimation in Kate Chopin’s ‘Fedora’”: 134–38.
Arner, Robert D. “Pride and Prejudice: Kate Chopin’s ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 139–46.
Bauer, Margaret D. “Armand Aubigny, Still Passing After All These Years: The Narrative Voice and Historical Context of ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 161–83.
Berkove, Lawrence I. “‘Acting Like Fools’: The Ill-Fated Romances of ‘At the ’Cadian Ball’ and ‘The Storm’”: 184–96.
Wagner-Martin, Linda. “Kate Chopin’s Fascination with Young Men”: 197–206.
Walker, Nancy A. “Her Own Story: The Woman of Letters in Kate Chopin’s Short Fiction”: 218–26.
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.
Fick, Thomas H., and Eva Gold, guest eds. “Special Section: Kate Chopin.” Louisiana Literature: A Review of Literature and Humanities. Spring, 1994. 8–171. The special section of the journal contains these essays:
Toth, Emily. “Introduction: A New Generation Reads Kate Chopin”: 8–17.
Koloski, Bernard. “The Anthologized Chopin: Kate Chopin’s Short Stories in Yesterday’s and Today’s Anthologies”: 18–30.
Saar, Doreen Alvarez. “The Failure and Triumph of ‘The Maid of Saint Phillippe’: Chopin Rewrites American Literature for American Women”: 59–73.
Dyer, Joyce. “‘Vagabonds’: A Story without a Home”: 74–82.
Padgett, Jacqueline Olson. “Kate Chopin and the Literature of the Annunciation, with a Reading of ‘Lilacs’”: 97–107.
Day, Karen. “The ‘Elsewhere’ of Female Sexuality and Desire in Kate Chopin’s ‘A Vocation and a Voice’”: 108–17.
Cothern, Lynn. “Speech and Authorship in Kate Chopin’s ‘La Belle Zoraïde’”: 118–25.
Lundie, Catherine. “Doubly Dispossessed: Kate Chopin’s Women of Color”: 126–44.
Ellis, Nancy S. “Sonata No. 1 in Prose, the ‘Von Stoltz’: Musical Structure in an Early Work by Kate Chopin”: 145–56.
Ewell, Barbara C. “Making Places: Kate Chopin and the Art of Fiction”: 157–71.
Boren, Lynda S., and Sara deSaussure Davis (eds.), Kate Chopin Reconsidered: Beyond the Bayou. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1992. The book contains these essays:
Toth, Emily. “Kate Chopin Thinks Back Through Her Mothers: Three Stories by Kate Chopin”: 15–25.
Bardot, Jean. “French Creole Portraits: The Chopin Family from Natchitoches Parish”: 26–35.
Thomas, Heather Kirk. “‘What Are the Prospects for the Book?’: Rewriting a Woman’s Life”: 36–57.
Black, Martha Fodaski. “The Quintessence of Chopinism”: 95–113.
Ewell, Barbara C. “Kate Chopin and the Dream of Female Selfhood”: 157–65.
Davis, Sara deSaussure. “Chopin’s Movement Toward Universal Myth”: 199–206.
Blythe, Anne M. “Kate Chopin’s ‘Charlie’”: 207–15.
Ellis, Nancy S. “Insistent Refrains and Self-Discovery: Accompanied Awakenings in Three Stories by Kate Chopin”: 216–29.
Toth, Emily, ed. A Vocation and a Voice by Kate Chopin. New York: Penguin, 1991.
Showalter, Elaine. Sister’s Choice: Tradition and Change in American Women’s Writing. Oxford, England: Oxford UP, 1991.
Papke, Mary E. Verging on the Abyss: The Social Fiction of Kate Chopin and Edith Wharton. New York: Greenwood, 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. The book contains these essays:
Ziff, Larzer. “An Abyss of Inequality”: 17–24.
Wolff, Cynthia Griffin. “The Fiction of Limits: ‘Désirée’s Baby’”: 35–42.
Dyer, Joyce C. “Gouvernail, Kate Chopin’s Sensitive Bachelor”: 61–69.
Dyer, Joyce C. “Kate Chopin’s Sleeping Bruties”: 71–81.
Gardiner, Elaine. “‘Ripe Figs’: Kate Chopin in Miniature”: 83–87.
Ewell, Barbara C. Kate Chopin. New York: Ungar, 1986.
Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne, 1985.
Toth, Emily, ed. Regionalism and the Female Imagination. New York: Human Sciences Press, 1984.
Stein, Allen F. After the Vows Were Spoken: Marriage in American Literary Realism. Columbus: Ohio UP, 1984.
Huf, Linda. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman: The Writer as Heroine in American Literature. New York: Ungar, 1983.
Christ, Carol P. Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest. Boston: Beacon, 1980.
Springer, Marlene. Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin: A Reference Guide. Boston: Hall, 1976.
Cahill, Susan. Women and Fiction: Short Stories by and about Women. New York: New American Library, 1975.
Seyersted, Per, ed. “The Storm” and Other Stories by Kate Chopin: With The Awakening. Old Westbury: Feminist P, 1974.
Freedman, Florence B., et al. Special Issue: Whitman, Chopin, and O’Faolain. WWR, 1970.
Leary, Lewis, ed. The Awakening and Other Stories by Kate Chopin. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
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.