Plot: Honoré Grandissime, head of the French Creole family, takes in Joseph Frowenfeld, whose family has died of yellow fever. He describes the New Orleans caste system, which had three racial groups, to Frowenfeld, an abolitionist. His desire to end slavery would destroy the labor base of the plantations, which revenues supported city life. Frowenfeld and Grandissime's uncle Agricola Fusilier, soon get into a dispute. Fusilier seeks to preserve the Grandissime way of life, which means continuing slavery.
Grandissime and his quadroon half brother, also named Honoré Grandissime, want to go into business together. Grandissime also wants to help Aurora Nancanou, widowed since Fusilier killed her husband. Grandissime is secretly in love with her.
Grandissime later tries to help Bras Coupé, a slave engaged to Palmyre, Aurora's maid. After Coupé attacks his white overseer, a mob of Creole aristocrats, including Fusilier, captures the slave as he tries to escape through swamps outside the city. Grandissime tries to intervene, but the mob brutally lynches Coupé, in an act demonstrating the darkness at the heart of their society....
George Washington Cable (October 12, 1844 - January 31, 1925) was an American novelist notable for the realism of his portrayals of Creole life in his native New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been called "the most important southern artist working in the late 19th century, as well as the first modern southern writer." In his treatment of racism, mixed-race families and miscegenation, his fiction has been thought to anticipate that of William Faulkner.
He also wrote articles critical of contemporary society. Due to hostility against him after two 1885 essays encouraging racial equality and opposing Jim Crow, Cable moved with his family to Northampton, Massachusetts. He lived there for the next thirty years, then moved to Florida.
Cable was born in 1844 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of George W. Cable, Sr., and Rebecca Boardman Cable. They were wealthy slaveholders who were members of the Presbyterian Church and New Orleans society, whose families had moved there after the Louisiana Purchase. First educated in private schools, the younger Cable had to get work after his father died young. The elder Cable had lost investments, and the family struggled financially. Cable later learned French on his own. He served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, in which he took part in support of the Southern cause.
His experiences changed his ideas about Southern and Louisiana society, and he began writing during a two-year bout with malaria. In 1870 Cable went into journalism, writing for the New Orleans Picayune. He worked for them from 1865 to 1879, by which time he had become an established writer. In 1869, George Cable married Louisa Stewart Bartlett, with whom he had several children.
He was invited to submit stories in Scribner's Monthly, where his story "Sieur George", published in 1873, was a critical and popular success. He published six more stories of Creole life with Scribner's in the following three years....