Passionate instincts can overtake us in the blink of an eye. Guilty feelings will wash over, and soon take control of us. We’re propelled on an exciting, dangerous bender which could potentially destroy everything. Throughout history, humans have given into our polygamous nature through the act of infidelity, men and women have been unfaithful to one another over the course of time. However, particular time periods and cultures have contrasting viewpoints on infidelity often depending on gender. Chopin wrote fictional stories in the late 18th century and was condemned due to the immorality of her work. While it has traditionally been men who have encouraged marriage, Chopin gave readers a woman’s perspective of how repressive marriage can be for a woman, both emotionally and sexually.
The Storm, by Kate Chopin, is a short story, which focuses on the relationship between former lovers, Calixta and Alcee. Alcee takes refuge from a storm in Calixta’s house, during the time he is there the two make love while Calixta’s husband and son bear the storm in a local store. Chopin subtly interprets that our sexual urges are irresistible, but the outcomes are positive for everybody involved. Calixta is first introduced in the story as a lady of the house, which would have been the dominant role for women during the 1800s. Her frustration is due to both the limited social roles she has and the absence of affection in her marriage.
This portrayal is shown through Chopin’s characterization of Bobinot and Calixta prior to the storm. Bobinot is described as sitting “stolidly” on the keg while holding the can of shrimps he bought for Calixta. Bobinot’s lack of sensibility and emotion are apparent, which leads to Calixta frustrated as “she sat at a side window sewing furiously on the sewing machine” (Chopin, 4). She hardly notices the emerging storm, until it gets too dark for her to see her work. Her suppression leads to loosening her saque at the throat, a symbolic gesture specifying her directness by drawing the attention to another. This simple move would not be significant today where we are free to wear whatever we want, however, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, women were expected to be covered from the neck-down at all times. Chopin intentionally wrote these subtle details in her short story and had gone unnoticed by most readers.
Alcee, a dominant character, is first introduced by showing up right at Calixta’s front door right when the storm kicks off, which makes us question his ulterior motives. The powerful storm symbolizes the passion Alcee and Calixta have for each other. While they make love, the rain beats down harder, thunder crashes, and the elements roar; the passing of the storm expresses their physical exhaustion. Chopin highlights Calixta’s and Alcee’s sexuality by constantly referring to the color white in the story.
While Alcee and Calixta are in the bedroom, Chopin directs the reader’s attention to the “white, monumental bed” (Chopin 6). Chopin also mentions Clalixta’s ‘white neck’, ‘white throat’ and ‘white breasts.’ the color white represents the excitement that exists between Alcee and Calixta. With the absence of Bobinot and Clarisse, it may also emphasize the lack of passion in Calixta and Alcee’s marriages. While passion, like the storm, are strong, they are not detrimental.
The storm does very little damage, and the sun emerges, “turning the glistening green world into a palace of gems” (Chopin, 6). The rain leaves the world a happier and more beautiful place, just as the lovers part with joy in their hearts. Alcée leaves with a smile, and Calixta answers him with laughter. The act of infidelity gave Calixta a much-needed release from the pressure of being a wife and mother. Not only does the storm aid Calixta’s and Alcee’s desires, but assists in the relationships they have with Bobinot and Clarisse. Bobinot receives the benefit of his wife’s newly awoken sexual passion, and Clarisse is happy to forego her intimate conjugal life for a while longer.
The Storm helps define the sexual norms within the late nineteenth century while also making a dominant statement in regards to human sexual instincts and needs. The sexual desire Alcee and Calixta had been irrepressible, and although they committed an act of infidelity, which is often frowned upon, the release of emotions on both sides led to a positive outcome.