George Washington Cable

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How do the fates of the protagonists in Cable's "Tite Poulette" and King's "The Little Convent Girl" compare?

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The most obvious difference between the fates of the two protagonists is that George Washington Cable's "Tite Poulette" has a happy ending and Grace King's "The Little Convent Girl" has an unhappy ending. In writing your paper, you should focus on how the dynamics of race affect these endings.

In the introductory expositions in both stories, the protagonists are identified as hybrid or liminal characters, poised somewhere between black and white; this hybridity is the major theme of the stories. Although Tite physically appears white in some ways, in other ways she appears an "octoroon," which is, in fact her legal category, although not her racial heritage, as we find out in the denouement

In both cases the girls have black mothers and white fathers, something that was typical of "quadroons" of the period, as these were often children born out of sexual relationships (often non-consensual) between white masters and their slaves. In the case of Tite, although she is actually of Spanish heritage, Madame John must pretend that she is part black in order to adopt her as a daughter. It is when she is revealed through a somewhat contrived plot twist as possessing pure white blood that the happy ending becomes possible. 

In the case of the Little Convent Girl, she passes as white, although the hints that she must obsessively straighten her hair and remarks about her sallow complexion suggest partial black heritage. It is when she moves through the intermediary space of the ship from the convent to encountering her black mother that she decides to commit suicide. 

A typical stereotype in Louisiana literature (whether works written in the state or about it) of the period is the tragic quadroon, a woman caught between the white and black worlds, too respectably raised to be comfortable with placage marriage or concubinage, but portrayed as unable to bear the poverty and degradation that the authors associated with black life under slavery. Tite initially seems to follow that stereotype, but is allowed a happy ending when it is proven that she is actually white, while the Convent Girl's suicide follows a more stereotypical path.

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