'At the 'Cadian Ball' is an engaging short story penned by Kate Chopin in 1892. The narrative revolves around two men and two women as their romantic involvements unfold in the backdrop of the 'Cadian Ball,' a social event where young Cajun individuals seek potential suitors for marriage.
Plot Summary of 'At the 'Cadian Ball'
The story begins by introducing Bobinôt, described as a big, good-natured man, who initially has no intention of attending the ball. He is deeply in love with Calixta, referred to as the 'Spanish vixen,' who will be present at the event. However, Bobinôt hesitates due to a vague scandal involving Calixta from a previous year, an incident dismissed by the locals due to her Spanish heritage.
However, when Bobinôt learns that Alcée Laballière, who poses a potential threat to his relationship with Calixta, will also be attending the ball, he decides to go to ensure Calixta's safety and prevent any untoward behavior from Alcée.
The narrative then shifts focus to Alcée Laballière, who resides with his mother and Clarisse, his goddaughter whom he loves. Alcée, having recently invested in rice plantation, works diligently in the fields. One day, he passionately kisses Clarisse, expressing his affections, which leaves her shocked.
Shortly after, a cyclone devastates the rice fields, leading to Alcée's emotional withdrawal. As his mother and Clarisse weep over the losses, Clarisse notices Bruce, Alcée's black servant, waiting with his master's horse. Alcée then appears, prepares his horse, and departs for the 'Cadian ball, leaving Clarisse curious about his intentions.
At the ball, Alcée's arrival causes a stir. The men admire his bravery and perseverance despite the recent misfortune. However, unbeknownst to others, Alcée seeks to create trouble that night as a release for his pent-up frustrations. The only person aware of this is Bobinôt.
Meanwhile, Calixta playfully approaches Bobinôt, referring to him as a clumsy man resembling a 'cow in the bog.' Bobinôt, pleased by Calixta's attention, considers her the belle of the ball, even though her behavior may not always align with societal expectations.
As the evening progresses, Calixta finds herself sitting outside on a bench with Alcée. He flirts with her and reminisces about their past encounter in Assumption. When they spot Bobinôt searching for them, Alcée inquires whether Calixta would consider marrying him. Although she does not say 'no,' her response remains ambiguous. As Alcée's lips graze Calixta's ear, a black servant interrupts, informing Alcée of someone requesting his presence. Alcée dismisses the servant threateningly.
Clarisse arrives, calling for Alcée. Realizing that she sent the servant, Alcée understands the urgency and leaves with Clarisse, forgetting about Calixta. Bobinôt then finds Calixta alone and joins her. Calixta reveals that she is open to marrying him, bringing immense joy to Bobinôt. He requests to kiss her, but she declines. Nonetheless, he is content knowing that she wants to marry him.
On their journey home, Alcée questions Clarisse about the reason for her urgent visit. She confesses her concern after witnessing him leave with saddlebags, worried that he was heading to Assumption to engage in improper behavior once again. Alcée interprets her actions as an expression of love. Meanwhile, they hear distant pistol shots, signaling the end of the ball.
An Exploration of Romantic Complexities and Unexpected Bonds
'At the 'Cadian Ball' delves into the intricacies of romantic relationships and unveils unexpected alliances. The story navigates the tensions between love, attraction, and societal expectations within the Cajun community.
Bobinôt's decision to attend the ball out of concern for Calixta reflects his affection and desire to protect her from Alcée's potential advances. Despite their contrasting personalities, Bobinôt's sincere affection and Calixta's flirtatious nature create an unconventional connection.
Alcée's complex emotions and his attraction to both Clarisse and Calixta lead to a sequence of events that challenge his desires and societal norms. His departure with Clarisse from the ball suggests a realization of his true feelings for her, transcending the initial passionate kiss and highlighting the significance of emotional connection over momentary attractions.
The story concludes with the distant pistol shots symbolizing the end of the ball, hinting at the resolution of the romantic entanglements and the return to a sense of normalcy.
Through its exploration of romance, desire, and unexpected bonds, 'At the 'Cadian Ball' offers readers an insightful glimpse into the complexities of human relationships and the subtle dynamics that shape our lives.
Analysis: A Glimpse into Social Hierarchies and Romantic Choices
Kate Chopin's Depiction of Louisiana Society
'At the 'Cadian Ball' provides readers with a snapshot of late nineteenth-century Louisiana society, shedding light on its social hierarchy and intricacies. To fully grasp the presented social dynamics, it is essential to understand the historical context surrounding the story.
The Laballières, with their plantation and servants, belong to the Creole community—a group descended from French settlers in Louisiana. On the other hand, Bobinôt and Calixta are Acadians, commonly known as 'Cajuns,' tracing their ancestry back to the expulsion of Acadians from Canada to the United States in 1755. The distinction between these groups reveals their different social backgrounds and classes.
Chopin weaves a relatively conventional romantic plot, highlighting the corrections and misunderstandings that eventually lead each character to their 'appropriate' partner.
Social Differences and Character Portrayals
Chopin emphasizes the social disparities between the two couples by employing contrasting descriptions of their personalities. Bobinôt, marked by the harsh sounds of his name, is depicted as 'big,' 'brown,' and 'dull-looking and clumsy,' signifying his lower social standing. His physical appearance reflects his laborious work in the fields, something the upper-class landowners typically avoid.
In contrast, Alcée, whose name suggests strength of character, is described as 'chic' with 'handsome eyes,' befitting his higher social position. Alcée utilizes Calixta to vent his frustrations—first regarding the cyclone's destruction of his rice fields and second in response to what he perceives as rejection when he passionately kissed Clarisse.
The characters are paired off within their respective social classes, aligning with the late nineteenth-century societal norms. However, as 'At the 'Cadian Ball' concludes, readers are left to contemplate whether these choices will bring lasting happiness. Although Calixta clearly prefers the attractive and affluent Alcée over the 'dull-looking' Bobinôt, she ultimately marries the latter and even suggests it to him in the story's closing moments.
Navigating Unease and Ambiguity
Both Alcée and Calixta harbor unease within their own social circles. Alcée openly disapproves of the upper-class men who frequent the Laballière residence, resenting their effeminate behaviors and displays. He fantasizes about throwing them all into the levee.
Calixta, with her Spanish heritage and flirtatious nature, faces suspicion and disapproval from many women in her society. However, her behavior is often dismissed as a consequence of her Mediterranean temperament. Her response to Alcée's question about marrying Bobinôt carries a degree of ambiguity: 'I don't say no, me,' implying that she might not refuse him if Alcée were to ask her first.
In 'The Storm,' the sequel to 'At the 'Cadian Ball' written by Kate Chopin six years later, in 1898, Calixta and Alcée engage in an adulterous affair. Although Chopin did not publish this story during her lifetime, it eventually appeared in print in 1969.
Chopin's exploration of social hierarchies, the complexities of romantic choices, and the subtleties of human relationships in 'At the 'Cadian Ball' invites readers to reflect on the influence of society and individual desires on personal connections.