‘Ozème’s Holiday’ by Kate Chopin

Ozème’s Holiday by Kate Chopin, 1896

The magic trick:

Portraying a very particular setting and culture, but doing so with a little bit of cartoonish morality

There is something here that feels reminiscent of a story deemed unforgivably backwards by the modern morality state. Put plainly: it’s racist. Or is it? Yeah, it might feel like Uncle Remus in its cartoonish plot swings. But it’s more complicated than that comparison. It taps into Louisiana culture in the years immediately after the Civil War. That’s a rich, complex culture. So if this story is trading on simple stereotypes, I’d be surprised. It feels more like a strange blend of subversive cartoon.

And that’s quite a trick on Chopin’s part.

The selection:

Ozème often wondered why there was not a special dispensation of providence to do away with the necessity for work. There seemed to him so much created for man’s enjoyment in this world, and so little time and opportunity to profit by it. To sit and do nothing but breathe was a pleasure to Ozème; but to sit in the company of a few choice companions, including a sprinkling of ladies, was even a greater delight; and the joy which a day’s hunting or fishing or picnicking afforded him is hardly to be described. Yet he was by no means indolent. He worked faithfully on the plantation the whole year long, in a sort of methodical way; but when the time came around for his annual week’s holiday, there was no holding him back. It was often decidedly inconvenient for the planter that Ozème usually chose to take his holiday during some very busy season of the year.


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