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The stories are set in New Orleans during the late 19th century, and explore themes of race, class, gender, and identity.
One of the defining features of “Balcony Stories” is King’s use of the balcony as a symbol of social and cultural hierarchies in New Orleans. Balconies were an important part of the architecture of the city, and were often used by upper-class white women as a space to observe and participate in the public life of the city. However, balconies were also spaces of exclusion, as they were off-limits to people of color and those from lower social classes.
The stories in “Balcony Stories” depict a wide range of characters, from wealthy white women to working-class African Americans. Despite their differences, these characters are all struggling to find their place in a rapidly changing society. Many of the stories deal with the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction, as well as the rise of Jim Crow laws and other forms of racial segregation.
One of the most powerful stories in the collection is “La Grande Demoiselle,” which tells the story of a wealthy white woman who is forced to confront her own prejudices and assumptions about race and class. The woman, Madame Delphine, is horrified when she discovers that her husband has been carrying on an affair with a mixed-race woman. Despite her initial revulsion, Madame Delphine finds herself drawn to the woman, who represents a kind of freedom and authenticity that she has never known.
Another memorable story is “A Night in Acadie,” which follows a group of young people on a boating trip along the Louisiana coast. The story is notable for its vivid descriptions of the natural landscape, as well as its exploration of themes of sexuality and desire. The characters in the story are all struggling to come to terms with their own desires and impulses, and King portrays their struggles with sensitivity and nuance.
Overall, “Balcony Stories” is a powerful and evocative collection of stories that offers a vivid portrait of life in New Orleans during the late 19th century. King’s use of the balcony as a symbol of social hierarchy is particularly effective, and her exploration of themes of race, class, gender, and identity is both insightful and compassionate. The stories in “Balcony Stories” offer a window into a bygone era, but their themes and concerns are still relevant today.