Friday, October 8, 2010

Cable, "Belle Demoiselles Plantation"

--The story describes some of the complicated racial heritages of New Orleans culture. What does it seem to be saying about this heritage of racial and cultural mixing?

--Consider the depiction of the spaces of New Orleans, especially the role of the Mississippi River in the story.

--In the final analysis, do you find this story to be critical of or supportive of the New Orleans Creole culture?


  1. Injun Charlie is definitely apart of a complicated racial heritage as described by Cable at the beginning of the story;

    "Old De Carlos was his extremely distant relative on the Choctaw side. With this single exception, the narrow thread-like line of descent from the Indian wife, diminished to a mere strand by injudicious alliances, and deaths in the gutters of old New Orleans, was extinct. The name, by Spanish contact, had become De Carlos; but this one surviving bearer of it was known to all, and known only, as Injin Charlie."

    Not only is Injun Charlie of mixed ethnicities, but only a sliver of his ancestry is related to Colonol Charleau. The following paragraph explains that in New Orleans this does not diminish the importance of family ties;

    "One thing I never knew a Creole to do. He will not utterly go back on the ties of blood, no matter what sort of knots those ties may be. For one reason, he is never ashamed of his or his father's sins; and for another,--he will tell you--he is "all heart!"

    This emphasis on blood relation affects the actions of the Colonel. Though he doesn’t find Charlie to be of any worth except for his property, he cannot cheat him by trading the sinking Belles Demoiselles for Charlie’s. He realizes that despite his frustration, blood ties are strong no matter how diluted;

    ",--to betray his own blood! It was only Injin Charlie; but had not the De Charleu blood just spoken out in him? Unconsciously he groaned."

    Cable seems to be saying that in this culture a blood tie, however distant or mixed, is to be treated as direct family. This is consistent with other articles we’ve read about New Oreleans complicated ethnic identity.

  2. I found the Mississippi's role in the story quite interesting. At first, the house, although "unusually close" to the river, seems complimented by it. When Cable describes it in all its beauty, he explains how nine miles of the river were seen from the house and the view seems quite breathtaking. Later, when "the cup of gladness seemed to fill with the filling of the river", the Mississippi seems to mirror the feelings and happenings of the family. At the same time, the family and others living near the river seem a bit fearful of it, as "men were out day and night, watching the levee." Ironically, the river ends up essentially sinking the house and ruining the family... "sunk sunk, down, down, into the merciless, unfathomable flood of the Missisipppi." At this point in the story the river seems malicious its role is completely negatively portrayed.

    I think New Orleans, as a space, is depicted how many of us still see it today. The Colonel is said to have "gambled in Royal Street" and "drunk hard in Orleans Street" and "had a quarrel at the St. Phillippe-street-theatre." All of his vices are described through streets in the city, which for me, conjured up images of drunks on Mardi Gras and the partying that we all imagine happening in the city.

  3. I was interested in Cable's focus on the importance of blood ties. It really created a more feudal, European feel to New Orleans. Cable blends a lot of culture and race into the character of Injun Charlie. Charlie also behaved much like the character of Grandison by playing games with the more "respectable" character. Describing Injun Charlie's lineage as falling victim to "death in the gutters of New Orleans" sets the reader to believe that Charlie was going to be a more inferior character to Colonel Charleau. However, Charlie's sense of loyalty to blood and several times getting the upper hand on the colonel proves the reader wrong. I thought it was also clever to tie the names Charleau and Charlie together since they sound similar. These names also seem to play on the fact that Charlie is a name that would seem less refined where as Charleau holds an air of importance.

    The Mississippi river is seen as an unrelenting force in this story. It is interesting how the river is the main reason why life is in the New Orleans region but ultimately is a symbol of death and destruction in this story. It serves as a completely different purpose as seen in Twain's "Life on the Mississippi."

    The beginning of the story was also critical to the treatment of the "Choctaw Comptesse." In the second paragraph cable writes "a man cannot remember every thing" when talking about marrying a second time. This is the only point of the text where the voice is sarcastic or critical of a character. I'm not quite sure what it implies but it sets the reader to gain sympathy for Charlie.

  4. Like Darren, I found a lot of similarities between Grandison and Charlie. Like "The Passing of Grandison", we see a bit of a character twist in the end that ultimately seems to serve the role of lifting up a certain group. Throughout this narrative, we're lead to believe that Charlie is this simple-minded, unintelligible Creole that is too dumb to be tricked. As the proverbial prism of the story, though, is turned slowly into the light, we are proved to be guilty again of allowing an author to trick us with a character, as Charlie seems to be a bit more keen on what his distant relative is scheming than we though, and as he proves to be a very caring, dedicated person.

    Just like a similar plot twist lead us to believe the author of "The Passing of Grandison" was advocating for the respect of African Americans, I tend to think this was a case of the author advocating for the respect of the multi-cultured Creoles in New Orleans. Charlie becomes endearing in the end, to the point of making you feel guilty for doubting his worth at any point, ultimately campaigning for the respect of that culture.

  5. I would say the story was neither critical nor supportive of New Orleans Creole culture. I say that because I believe that the story is played out in such a way that the distinction between the native (De Charlos) and the French (De Charleu) side of the family was more divided if anything. Toward the end of the story we find out through Injin Charlie that after the passing of the Colonel's first wife, the native side of the family got the little rat hole that Charlie lives in, and the French side which the Colonel associated with got Belles Demoiselles Plantation. I don't think that this situation would signify anything critical of the native side, but rather the mixture of language and the fact that the two are still somewhat related plays into the meaning of what a Creole culture actually is. I use the term "divided Creole" as a way to signify what seems to be a division between the family by the two separate households in the bargain. I think the Colonel wanted to buy (as mentioned in mid-text) Charlie's rat hole to own all of the family's original land while also maintaining all of the land under one name, De Charleu (as opposed to both De Charleu for Belles Demoiselles and De Carlos for the rat hole). I would however say that the story was supportive of Creole culture toward the end as the Colonel was on his death bed. Though he and Charlie had disputed over the deal and come to terms with why it was and wasn't a good idea (i.e. it took the Colonel a huge tragedy to realize he didn't want to make the trade), they were still close enough as a family for Charlie to be next to him, crying on the Colonel's death bed.

  6. I think the racial and cultural mixing in this story is interesting. The Colonel is described as being very proud and noble. “His step was firm, his form erect, his intellect strong and clear, his countenance classic, serene, dignified, commanding, his manners courtly, his voice musical, --fascinating.” He won’t respond to anyone that doesn’t address him as Colonel and is proud of his family heritage and name.

    Injin Charlie is described in a less flattering way. He is a very distant relative of the Colonel and is described as ignorant, “shrewd, deaf, and, by repute at least, unmerciful.” It seems to me that the only interest the Colonel has in Injin Charlie is because he happens to own several blocks of desirable property. Charlie speaks in broken English as opposed to the Colonel’s clear, proper English.

    The fact that they are family is not acknowledged until the Colonel does not swap properties with Charlie because he knows his is going to fall into the Mississippi. I was surprised by this but the Colonel said he could not betray his own blood, even though he would prefer to. I also found it interesting that although the Colonel had tried to rip off Charlie, Charlie still stayed with the Colonel until the end of his days. This also portrays how important family ties are in New Orleans culture.

  7. I do not know if it specifically supports the creole culture or not. The two men in the story have a point of connection, which is that they are both rich and white, but they belong to different cultures. Their point of connection is blood. They feel more connected to their family, past and present then they do to anyone else. This does not mean that they will not come together in time of need, like at the end of the story, they just lead different lives most of the time. For them, a family connection is the most important because that is where you come from. Those are the people that you are like the most. The whole story centers around these men frighting about their families over the house. This is not a bad thing, but not a good thing. It is good to honor your family and respect everything they did for you, but it is bad to take it so far that you are unable to feel anything for anyone outside of that family. Life is still happening all around you. So it does a little of both in the story.


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