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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...

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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.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 739

Honoré Grandissime

Honoré Grandissime (oh-noh-RAY grahn-dees-EEM), a merchant, head of the Grandissimes. Extremely handsome and well-dressed, he is an impressive figure, the flower of the family. His egalitarian views and his opposition to slavery are viewed with suspicion and distaste by other Grandissimes. He represents the peacemaking element as his uncle, Agricola, represents the strifemaking element in the family. Conscience-stricken over his possession of and profit from Aurora’s property (given him by Agricola), he returns it and thereby angers his family. He further alienates them by going into partnership with another Honoré Grandissime, a free man of color.

Honoré Grandissime, f. m. c.

Honoré Grandissime, f. m. c., his older quadroon half brother, a rentier. (To prevent confusion, he is usually distinguished from the white Honoré by the initials f. m. c.—free man of color—after his name.) He has strong feelings about the lot of the Louisianians of mixed blood, but he is feeble of will about fighting the caste system. He hates Agricola and loves Palmyre. After going with Palmyre to Bordeaux following Agricola’s death, he vainly courts her and then drowns himself.

Agricola Fusilier

Agricola Fusilier (ah-GREE-koh-lah fyew-seel-YAY), Honoré’s uncle, a sturdy, bearded old lion careless of his dress. Loving all things French, he scorns Americans and their jargon. He is proud of his Creole blood, contemptuous of all people of color, and fearful of Palmyre. He is mortally stabbed by Honoré f. m. c., whom he has attacked. Dying, he affects to forgive all enemies of the Creole aristocracy, but he dies with his prejudices.

Aurora Nancanou

Aurora Nancanou (ah-rohr-AH nahn-kah-NEW), née De Grapion (deh grah-PYOH[N]), a beautiful young widow whose husband died in a duel after accusing Agricola of cheating at cards. She is poor but proud, and she superstitiously believes in Palmyre’s spellmaking powers. In love with Honoré, she is mindful of the enmity of the Grandissimes toward her own family, the De Grapions. After Agricola, dying, admits to having years before promised a marriage between Honoré and Aurora, she still resists, but she finally accepts her formerly diffident adorer.

Clotilde Nancanou

Clotilde Nancanou (kloh-TEELD), her lovely daughter, who appears to be a younger sister rather than the daughter of the youthful-looking Aurora. Loved by Joseph, she finally accepts his suit.

Joseph Frowenfeld

Joseph Frowenfeld, a handsome young American immigrant of German ancestry whose family dies of yellow fever, which Joseph survives. He becomes a proprietor of an apothecary shop. A serious student, he has liberal views that are resented by the Creoles. He cannot understand why the caste system for people of varied colors is permitted to continue in Louisiana. Wounded mistakenly while attending Palmyre after she is shot, he recovers and becomes a partner in an expanded drug business supported by capital from Aurora. He falls in love with Clotilde and apparently will marry her.

Dr. Charlie Keene

Dr. Charlie Keene, Joseph’s physician and friend, red-haired and freckled. Intelligent and perceptive, he acquaints Joseph with the Creole-dominated society of New Orleans.

Palmyre Philosophe

Palmyre Philosophe (pahl-MEER fee-loh-SOHF), a freed quadroon slave, formerly Aurora’s maid, who hates Agricola and who is wounded after stabbing him. Loved by Honoré f. m. c., she ignores him and hates all men except the white Honoré and Bras Coupé, to whom she was married before he ran away. She passionately desires the love of Honoré, but in vain.

Bras Coupé

Bras Coupé (brah kew-PAY), a giant African prince captured by slavers and brought to Louisiana. After marrying Palmyre, he strikes his master in a drunken fit and escapes. Returning to get Palmyre, he is captured, imprisoned, and mutilated, and he dies in prison after removing the curse he had put upon Don José’s family and land. Bras Coupé is a symbol of the dignity, the native worth, and the tragedy of his race.

Don José Martinez

Don José Martinez (hoh-SEH mahr-TEE-nehs), Honoré’s brother-in-law and Bras Coupé’s master.

Governor Claiborne

Governor Claiborne, a young Virginian, governor-general of Louisiana.

Numa Grandissime

Numa Grandissime, father of the two Honorés.

Raul Innerarity

Raul Innerarity, an amateur artist, a cousin of Honoré. He becomes Joseph’s clerk.


Achille (ah-SHEEL),


Valentine (vah-lehn-TEEN),


Jean-Baptiste (zhahn-bah-TEEST),


Hippolyte (ee-poh-LEET),


Sylvestre (seel-VEHSTR), and


Agamemnon (ah-gah-MEHM-nohn), kinsmen of Honoré.


Clemence (kleh-MAHNS), Palmyre’s voodoo accomplice, shot to death by an unknown marksman after her lynching is interrupted.

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