Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 408
The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life is a novel by author George Washington Cable. The story is written as historical fiction based in New Orleans in the early 1800s. Though it is a romance novel, it tells more than a love story; through the lens of romantic relationships, race and class relations in New Orleans. The names of the main characters are bolded below.
The story begins with Honoré Grandissime taking Joseph Frowenfeld into his household after Joseph's entire family in Philadelphia has died of yellow fever. Honoré is a white man of prominence, though the Grandissime family is not all white (for instance, he has a mulatto half-brother who is referred to as the Darker Honoré Grandissime). After welcoming Joseph into his home, Honoré begins to explain to him the intricacies of the New Orleans caste system and racial dynamics. Joseph is an abolitionist, and Honoré attempts to argue that ending slavery would upset New Orleans' entire economic ecosystem. As their conversations continue, however, Honoré begins to understand Joseph's perspective and question his own racial biases.
Shortly after this, the reader meets Aurora Nancanou, a widow whose husband was killed by Honoré's uncle Agricola Fusilier. As Honoré attempts to help Aurora in the wake of her husband's death, it becomes apparent that he is in love with her. Aurora has a close relationship with one of her maids, Palmyre, a young woman who is engaged to Bras Coupé, an enslaved prince from Africa working on a Creole plantation. Palmyre, for her part though, is in love with the lighter Honoré and loved by the darker Honoré. This "love triangle" sort of situation unsurprisingly leads to complicated relationships between the various characters.
One day, after marrying Palmyre and dealing with immeasurable amounts of abuse at the hands of his captors, Bras attacks his white overseer. This eventually leads to a mob, including Honoré's uncle Agricola, hunting him down. Honoré attempts to help Bras but is unsuccessful. Ultimately, Bras is caught and beaten to death by the mob.
In the wake of the loss of her husband, Palmyre agrees to leave New Orleans with the Darker Honoré and go to France. In the end though, even after they've escaped together, Palmyre still does not love the Darker Honoré, and he ends up committing suicide. Back in New Orleans, however, Aurora and Honoré finally end up together after he asks for her hand in marriage multiple times.