Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Here are some quotes from The Grandissimes:
"We will make something to laugh at," said the Cavalier; "we will unmask to each other, and when we find each other first cousins, the laugh will come of itself."
The author begins the story with a masked ball that includes both white French creole and biracial characters. The masks emphasize the ways in which the society masks the truly close connections between white and biracial family members and the hypocrisy of doing so.
"There are so many Grandissimes," said the weary-eyed Frowenfeld, "I cannot distinguish between—I can scarcely count them."
"Well, now," said the doctor, "let me tell you, don't try. They can't do it themselves. Take them in the mass—as you would shrimps."
Doctor Keene tells Frowenfeld the story of the large Grandissimes family. Frowenfeld, as an outsider, remarks on the complexity of the family, and the doctor responds that the family itself cannot sort out its members, a commentary on the hypocrisy of trying to keep the white and quadroon, or biracial, members of the family apart.
"You must get acclimated," responded the Creole; "not in body only, that you have done; but in mind—in taste—in conversation—and in convictions too, yes, ha, ha! They all do it—all who come. They hold out a little while—a very little; then they open their stores on Sunday, they import cargoes of Africans, they bribe the officials, they smuggle goods, they have colored housekeepers. My-de'-seh, the water must expect to take the shape of the bucket; eh?"
In the quote above, Honoré Grandissime, who is biracial, tells Frowenfeld that New Orleans makes hypocrites out of everyone who comes there.
H-my young friend, when we say, "we people," we always mean we white people. The non-mention of color always implies pure white; and whatever is not pure white is to all intents and purposes pure black. When I say the "whole community," I mean the whole white portion; when I speak of the "undivided public sentiment," I mean the sentiment of the white population. What else could I mean? Could you suppose, sir, the expression which you may have heard me use—"my downtrodden country"—includes blacks and mulattoes? What is that up yonder in the sky? The moon. The new moon, or the old moon, or the moon in her third quarter, but always the moon! Which part of it? Why, the shining part—the white part, always and only! Not that there is a prejudice against the negro. By no means. Wherever he can be of any service in a strictly menial capacity we kindly and generously tolerate his presence.
Agricola Fusilier considers only whites deserving of the category of being full people. He is the voice of the racist white French Creole who attempt to defend their way of life to the newcomer Frowenfeld. He uses the moon to justify his racist beliefs in a manner that defies logic.
Many a wretch in his native wilderness has Bras-Coupé himself, in palmier days, driven to just such an existence, to escape the chains and horrors of the barracoons; therefore not a whit broods he over man's inhumanity, but, taking the affair as a matter of course, casts about him for a future.
Bras-Coupé is a symbol of the slave who tries to escape and who yearns for freedom but who does not manage to escape from the shackles of slavery.