In David Lodge’s chapter on the beginning, he states that “WHEN DOES A NOVEL BEGIN? The question is almost as difficult to answer as the question, when does the human embryo become a person? Certainly the creation of a novel rarely begins with the penning or typing of its first words. Most writers do some preliminary work, if it is only in their heads.” In “La Belle Zoraide”, the story of La Belle Zoraide had to be thought up by Kate Chopin before coming up with the outside frame narrative with Manna Loulou. It makes sense to think of the story you want to tell first before thinking about how it would be told.
“When does the beginning of a novel end, is another difficult question to answer. Is it the first paragraph, the first few pages, or the first chapter? However, one defines it, the beginning of a novel is a threshold, separating the real world we inhabit from the world the novelist has imagined. It should therefore, as the phrase goes, “draw us in”.” In “La Belle Zoraide”, when Manna Loulou starts telling the story of La Belle Zoriade, the author dries to draw us in by making her do something unordinary. She bathed her mistress’s feet and even kisses them happily. She also tries to “draw us in” In “Beyond the Bayou”. Chopin describes the bayou in the first sentence to draw us in. For both examples however it is hard to tell when the beginning of the story ends.
“We are not yet familiar with the author’s tone of voice, range of vocabulary, syntactic habits. We read a book slowly and hesitantly, at first. We have a lot of new information to absorb and remember, such as the characters’ names, their relationships of affinity and consanguinity, the contextual details of time and place, without which the story cannot be followed.” Assuming we have not read another story by Kate Chopin, we are not used to her habits, for example using French, Creole, or Southern dialects. We must also get used to learning a character’s name and then learning what everyone else calls him/her. La Folle, a word that means something in another language. For example, Jacquline in “Beyond the Bayou” is called La Folle meaning “out of her senses”. This is put in the beginning and is a key in character development, and shows the character’s relationship to other characters. La Folle is seen as a fool or even insane by other characters because of the fact that she stayed back. We must know this to follow the story as it progresses. This also shows in the beginning of La Belle Zoraide, we are not used to the way the author shows the calm, amicable relationship between the slave (or former slave) and the master (Manna Loulou and Madame Delisle).
“Many novels begin with a “frame-story” which explains how the main story was discovered, or describes it being told to a fictional audience.” La Belle Zoraide is a frame narrative of Manna Loulou telling the story of “La Belle Zoraide, the old, half-forgotten Creole romance.”