“Charlie” is Kate Chopin’s short story about the devotion between a tomboy and her widowed father. It is Chopin’s longest short story.
Read the story in print
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
- Charlie (Charlotte) Laborde: seventeen-year-old daughter of Mr. Laborde
- Mr. Laborde: widower
- Paula and Pauline Laborde: five-year-old twins, Charlie’s youngest sisters
- Julia Laborde: nineteen, Charlie’s older sister
- Amanda (sixteen), Irene (fourteen), and Fidelia (ten) Laborde: Charlie’s other sisters
- Miss Melvern: governess for the Laborde daughters
- Blossom: servant in the Laborde household
- Aunt Maryllis: cook for the Laborde household
- Demins: son of Aunt Maryllis
- Aurendele Bichou: ‘Cadian girl seeking to sell some chickens
- Odelia: sister of Aurendele
- Ma’am Philomel: living in the Laborde household
- Uncle Reuben: servant in the Laborde household
- Lulin: working at the railroad terminal
- Tinette: whose baby died of the measles
- Nannouche Bichou, Xenophore Bichou, and their parents: Aurendele’s family
- Firman Walton: on a business mission from New Orleans
- Mr. Gus Bradley: neighbor attracted to Charlie
- Aunt Clementine: Mr. Laborde’s sister
- The girls at the Seminary in New Orleans
The story takes place on Les Palmiers plantation in Louisiana, and in New Orleans, in the late nineteenth century.
Some readers, as we explain in the questions and answers below, focus on ideas about “the strong and the weak, the masculine and the feminine, the active and the passive sex.” Some compare Charlie with Jo March in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
You can read about finding themes in Kate Chopin’s stories and novels on the Themes page of this site.
The story was written April, 1900, but it was first published only in 1969, in The Complete Works of Kate Chopin, edited by Per Seyersted (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press). Kate Chopin had sent “Charlie” to Youth’s Companion, a magazine that had published other stories she had written, but the editor did not accept it. Apparently Chopin did not send the story to other editors.
Q: I’m a translator and am wondering about the meaning of the word “Coonpine” in this sentence in “Charlie”: “And the girls didn’t think I’d ever learn to dance until I gave them a double shuffle and a Coonpine!” What’s a “Coonpine”?
A: Chopin scholar Tom Bonner offers this response: “‘Coon pine’ refers to a dance step, influenced by physical behavior of raccoons and associations with coon songs and dances of black-faced performers in minstrel shows across the 19th century. Raccoons were and are known for their tree climbing and unusually erect manner of doing so. They are also known for their black-banded faces. Near mid 19th century ‘coons ‘and ‘possums’ were meat often consumed by Black slaves and poor people. Whites frequently associated the animals with Black people, and the term “coon” eventually became a racial slur. The minstrel shows throughout the 19th century and as late as the early 1950s were popular in the North and the South. The songs often had sources for their music in English folk songs but with lyrics adapted to that music from the racial folkways. In ‘Charlie’ the reference is likely to exaggerated steps and kicks by a dancer in an upright position, perhaps even moving her hands in washing-like motions. The phrasing in the story indicates movement from a shuffle to this different step with the racial, animal, and tree imagery. This influence on a white character echoes the general pattern of elements from social mannerisms and entertainments that come from the lower economic and social classes into the more privileged ones, similar to the transmission of the Blues and Jazz across the social divide. In contemporary poetry A.R. Ammon’s ‘Coon Song’ has some of the features of the past. In an interview, however, Ammon limits his discussion to the animal imagery in the poem. Something to think about.”
Q: Could you say that Charlie’s affection for her father in this story becomes a fixation?
A: There certainly is, as Per Seyersted notes, a “strong affinity” between Charlie and her father, but Seyersted stresses in the story the “interplay of the strong and the weak, the masculine and the feminine, the active and the passive sex.” And Ann Blythe notes that “there is no hint of anything abnormal or unhealthy in the feelings of either, no suggestion that this healthy father-daughter relationship is in any way delaying or hampering [Charlie’s] maturing as a young woman or growing in need and ability to respond to other men.”
Q: Has anyone noticed that this story resembles Louisa May Alcott’s earlier Little Women in its presentation of Charlie?
A: Yes, Barbara Ewell speaks of Charlie’s “blunt confidence and rowdy exploits” being similar to those of Jo March, and Pamela Knights writes that “whether in domestic, educational or social environments, Charlie, one of Jo March’s most vigorous descendants, is, like her predecessor, the one who harmonises least in the Laborde family ‘bouquet.'”
“Charlie,” Knights adds, “in spite of her status as daughter, and (it is hinted) wife, will be no passive dependent, but an actor on her own stage in the future.”
For students and scholars
The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Edited by Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969, 2006.
Kate Chopin: Complete Novels and Stories. Edited by Sandra Gilbert. New York: Library of America, 2002.
Shaker, Bonnie James. Coloring Locals: Racial Formation in Kate Chopin’s Youth’s Companion Stories. Iowa City, IA: U of Iowa P, 2003.
Giorcelli, Cristina. “‘Charlie’: Travestimento e potere.” In Abito e Identità: Ricerche di storia letteraria e culturale, II, edited by Giorcelli, Cristina, 25-75. Rome, Italy: Assoiciate Editrice Internazionale, 1997.
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.