In her short story “The Storm,” Kate Chopin was undoubtedly interested in presenting more to her audience than simple stories regarding simple country folk. Although there is little room in a short story for the full development of several individuals, significant insights regarding the multiple emotions of characters can often become very well developed by the careful use of phrases or actions. With the judicious application of only very meaningful phrases and language, the author is able to relate a specific event while providing the reader with a complex understanding of a woman trapped in a world, not of her own making.
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In “The Storm,” the major part of the story focuses on the activities of Calixta and Alcee, the main protagonist and one of her neighbours who was caught out when the storm arrived. As it is revealed through the dialogue and the action described, Calixta once had a relationship with Alcee. This earlier relationship is predominantly shown through Alcee’s emotions and impressions. The first accidental physical contact between the two dredges up these memories and the reasons why the two of them are not married now. “In Assumption, he had kissed her and kissed and kissed her; until his sense would well nigh fail, and to save her, he would resort to a desperate flight. If she was not an immaculate dove in those days, she was still inviolate; a passionate creature whose very defenselessness had made her defence, against which his honour forbade him to prevail” (Chopin, 1898). This suggests that Alcee fled before he and Calixta could consummate their love affair and satisfy their desires regardless of what her feelings were on the matter.
It is presumably for this reason that Calixta was less than fully satisfied with her marriage, always wondering if her first love would have been better. Although she is trapped in a marriage with Bobinot and now has a fine son who she is proud of, the marriage is not equal, which was illustrated at the beginning of the story when Bobinot and Bibi become stuck at the store by the storm and Bobinot nervously attempts to find something for Calixta that will appease her for the trouble he knows he’ll have caused. This indicates that the home life is less than happy, although there are no overt signs of significant marital distress.
Calixta finally experiences some sense of freedom as she and Alcee satisfy their long-suspended passions during the storm. For each, this passion is expressed in terms of a passion never before felt and probably never to be felt again, but revelling in the experience. “Her firm elastic flesh that was knowing for the first time its birthright was like a creamy lily that the sun invites to contribute its breath and perfume to the undying life of the world. The generous abundance of her passion, without guile or trickery, was like a white flame which penetrated and found response in depths of his own sensuous nature that had never yet been reached” (Chopin, 1898). Comparisons can be made between the blinding white flash of the lightning outside and the blinding whiteness of Calixta in this moment of a passionate embrace. The comparison between her inner spirit and the outer environment is not to be ignored, not only as they affect her life but also as they have bearing upon the lives of so many others. As Calixta and Alcee finish their love-making, the storm outside passes away, thundering in the distance for other people to fear and leaving Calixta’s world fresh and new.
Through such an analysis, it can be seen how a short story with limited space for character development can still manage to present a complicated individual and an intense look at the social customs of a given time. While “The Storm” only comprises the short space of a passing storm, the implications of the storm and which storm (atmospheric or human) are the storm of the title remain concepts to be discussed in great detail, not only for the characters involved but for those reading the story, those living in the time of authorship and those experiencing it from the perspective of a century in the future. Through this story, Chopin hammers home the unnatural and oppressed state of women in her time and urges social change for a happier society overall.
Chopin, Kate. “The Storm” 1898. Web.