Cloutierville and Chopin
NARRATOR: During Kate Chopin's stay in Cloutierville, she met a lot of people. She spent large amounts of time observing and getting to know them. They furnished her memory and imagination with material that led to her becoming a prominent "local color" writer. Depictions of the people, the language, the landscape, the food can be found throughout her short stories, novels and poems.
SOUNDBITES: E.F. Genovese/Emory University
Well they were stepping into a world of Spanish moss and Creole language and very distinct local food and all the cultural attributes. They were also stepping back in time. They were stepping into a world that had suffered very little of the impact of the outside world in the sense of unavoidable impulses to change.
Emily Toth/Louisiana State University
Compared to living in St. Louis, and New Orleans, Cloutierville and Natchitoches Parish was the weirdest place she had ever lived. And it's far more interesting to write about weird places, things that strike you as strange than places you've known all your life. She observed town life, gathered gossip and wrote about it in some ways that are pretty recognizable. People recognized themselves in her stories, but she was sly enough not to write or publish stories about the people of Natchitoches Parish until after she was back in St. Louis.
NARRATOR: Ultimately, Chopin launched a career in writing, perhaps largely because of letters she wrote home to St. Louis while living in Cloutierville. She sometimes wrote to a family friend, Doctor Frederick Kolbenheyer. It was Kolbenheyer who convinced Chopin that she should take her flair for writing more seriously. He encouraged her to write to help get over the loneliness and sadness that followed the death of her mother. It was then that she began writing short stories for publication in selected magazines. The story , "At the 'Cdian Ball" told of Clarisse being as "dainty as a lily; hardy as a sunflower; slim, tall graceful like one of the reeds that grow in the Louisiana marsh." And, she spoke of "Desiree's baby as being a "little cochon de lait", a phrase for fat piglets in regions of Louisiana influenced heavily by the French.