“Beyond the Bayou” Summary by Kate Chopin

“Beyond the Bayou” is a short story by Kate Chopin first published in 1893, and appearing in her 1894 collection Bayou Folk. It’s about a woman who lives with a psychological barrier that prevents her from crossing an imaginary line beyond the bayou near her cabin. Here’s a summary of “Beyond the Bayou.”

“Beyond the Bayou” Summary

La Folle, a large, gaunt, black woman over thirty-five, lives in a cabin by a bayou on the Bellissime plantation. She won’t cross an imaginary line through the woods due to a childhood trauma. As a boy, the current owner, P’tit Maître, covered in powder and blood, sought refuge from his pursuers with La Folle’s mother in their cabin.

La Folle lives alone in the cabin and works her land well. She knows nothing of the world beyond.

P’tit Maître is now married with daughters and a son, whom La Folle calls Cheri. She’s close to all the children, but loves Cheri like a son. He’s not around as much anymore; he’s ten-years-old now with his own gun.

In the summer, the bayou gets so low it can be crossed on foot, and the cows are sent to pasture down by the river. On Saturday afternoon, the men are in town trading and the women are occupied at home. La Folle bakes and does housework.

Cheri comes to see her, carrying his new rifle. He brings her some treats from the dinner they had earlier, and she gives him some cakes she baked. He boasts about the hunting he’ll do, saying he’ll bring her something. She watches him leave and disappear into the woods.

An hour later, she hears the rifle go off followed by a distressed cry. She hurries in the direction of the sounds, finding Cheri moaning on the ground with a ball lodged in his leg. He thinks he’s going to die, but she reassures him.

Beyond the Bayou Summary Kate Chopin
“Beyond the Bayou” Summary

La Folle picks up Cheri and carries him over the field to the bayou’s edge. Overcome with fear, she stops and cries out for help. It’s deserted, and no one responds to her wails. Terrified, she runs through the bayou and then into the trees on the other side, closing her eyes at times. The path eventually becomes smooth.

A child sees La Folle and excitedly yells out that she’s crossed the bayou. The shouts spread to the neighbors, and people go to their doors and windows to see for themselves. She looks wild as she presses on. Someone runs ahead to inform P’tit Maître and his family.

At the foot of the stairway, she hands the boy over to his father. Breathing heavily and overcome by a flashback, she falls to the ground, unconscious.

She wakes up at night in her own bed. There’s an old woman, Tante Lizette, at the table preparing herbs. Many visitors have come and gone, including P’tit Maître and Doctor Bonfils who had warned she might die. She asks for a drink of the mixture and then sleeps long and well. Satisfied with La Folle’s recovery, Tante goes home.

La Folle wakes up early on Sunday morning. Calmly, she puts on her good clothes and has coffee. She crosses the bayou as if she always has and continues through the trees and to a field. There’s only the sound of birds; no one is up yet.

She reaches P’tit Maître’s house. The smell of the many flowers recalls long-buried memories. She climbs the steps and looks at how far she’s come, feeling exultant. The boy’s mother comes to the door and quickly covers her surprise.

La Folle asks about Cheri. He’s recovering but still sleeping. She asks La Folle if she would come back later when he’s up. La Folle says she’s going to wait. She sits on the step. La Folle is contented and appreciates the sun rising beyond the bayou.

(End of “Beyond the Bayou” Summary)

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